Monday, December 27, 2010

Blizzard and Taco Stoup

Twenty-four inches of snow.

Fifty mile an hour winds.

Wind chills in the minus zero zone.

And I wake up to this.

Is there a car under there?

Digging our way OUT of the house

Snow Drifts over Four Feet High

Oh, Look - there were two cars under there! 

The kidadult and I spent hours digging out and when we were about halfway through the driveway the cavalry arrived in the form of two neighbors with snow blowers. YEAH the cavalry.

It gave me a warm feeling to know that there are people who were thinking of us and came to help. TBHITW was smiling down at his neighborhood buddies. 

On a day like this, with a snow emergency in effect, and nowhere to go and all day to get there, I put on a big pot of something good. Something warm. Something that I can share with the cavalry. 

Taco Stoup*: serves a crowd and then some

1 pound ground beef or turkey (I use lean ground turkey)
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 can (15 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 tablespoon (or more, to taste) chili powder or cayenne pepper
1 can or small frozen package corn
1 can each: pinto, kidney, navy AND black beans (or your choice)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
sour cream or greek style yogurt (optional)

Place 2 tablespoons oil in bottom of large stock pot. Add green pepper and onion. Saute until just soft - about 5 minutes. Add ground meat and cook until done.
Add tomatoes (do not drain)
Add envelope taco seasoning
Add beans (do not drain)
Add corn (if using canned, do not drain)
Add chili or spice to taste

Let simmer for 15 minutes to meld flavors and heat beans. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve piping hot as is or top with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

A Cook's Notes: This is my go-to recipe for ski weekends, snow days, and Sunday afternoon football games. Serve with warm corn bread or tortilla chips. The recipe makes a great big pot so plan on freezing some. It defrosts and rewarms beautifully!

What is your cold weather go-to recipe?

*I first posted this recipe in November, 2009. Search Taco Stoup to see pictures of the finished product.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Traditions and Bouche de Noel

My friend Anne is English and Irish. Her Irish American father met her English mother in England during World War II. After the war Anne's mother came to the states and married her soldier. She brought her English holiday traditions with her.

Anne's sister Kathy is married to a gentleman from Paris, France. He brought his French holiday traditions with him.

Anne met her husband Dan in Liberia where they were both serving in the Peace Corps. Dan was born and raised in Wisconsin. They brought back many holiday traditions from lands near and far with them.

Today we are celebrating Boxing Day. Most of the world outside the United States celebrates a form of Boxing Day, especially in Canada, Ireland and England.

I am a cook. Boxing Day and my friends give me something to be passionate about, namely, cooking. Cooking is my tradition, I bring it to you.

I made a traditional French Christmas dessert for today's festivities; Bouche de Noel. There is still time for you to make it for your New Year's celebration. What traditions do you bring to your holidays?

Bouche de Noel: serves 12

To make it a bit less complicated, use boxed cake mix and premade frosting (gasp!)

1 box yellow cake mix.
2 cans chocolate frosting (do not use the "whipped" kind)
2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces good quality semi sweet morsels
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
pinch cream of tartar

A few days before you are ready to make the cake, beat 2 egg whites with 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff and glossy. Place meringue in a pastry bag and pipe out 12 rounds and 12 columns of white. Bake in a 200 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Cool and place in a sealed container. You are going to make mushrooms out of this.

The night before you bake your cake scald 2 cups heavy cream in a small pan. Place the chocolate in a small bowl and pour the hot cream over. Let it sit for a few minutes then whisk to combine. Cover and cool in the refrigerator overnight. This is your chocolate ganache that will be spread on the inside of the cake.

The day you want to serve your cake. Follow directions on cake mix box to bake cake. Use a jelly roll pan and grease and flour well. It will only take about 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven to cook.

Get a kitchen towel ready and dust with flour. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven invert it on your towel and roll it up jelly roll style. Let cook completely in the towel - about 2 hours.

Okay. Ready.

Take your ganache out of the refrigerator and beat for a few minutes. Not too long, you want to be able to spread it.

Unroll your cake. Spread the ganache over the entire surface of the cake, then roll up and place on a platter.

Attache the meringue columns to the bottom of the meringue circles using a bit of the canned frosting as glue. Set aside.

Frost the rolled cake heavily, using the tip of your knife to draw "bark" lines and circles.

Use holly leaves or rosemary sprigs to decorate the platter. You can dip the greens in a beaten egg while, then roll in sugar for a snowy effect. Dust your mushrooms with a bit of cocoa powder and place the meringue mushrooms around using frosting to cement to platter, use currants or cranberries as additional garnish.

In the tradition of Good Cooks everywhere, stand back and admire your work.

Making the mushrooms

Whipping the ganache for the filling

Dipping Rosemary Sprigs in egg white and sugar to create a snowy garnish

Bouche de Noel

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Holiday Blessing and Mushroom Pie with Sour Cream Crust

We will light four candles this evening before we sit down to Christmas Eve dinner.

My family has been blessed with wonderful, caring people in our lives. This evening we will eat with Anne and Dan and their children. Anne and Dan were TBHITW and my best "couple" friends.

There will be one extra place setting and one empty chair at the table.

When we sit down at their table my children and I will each light one of four candles, these are the words that will be said to honor TBHITW:

"As we light these four candles in honor of you, we light one for our grief, one for our courage, one for our memories and one for our love.

First Candle: This candle represents our grief, the pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

Second Candle: This candle represents our courage to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to change our lives.

Third Candle: This light is in your memory; the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did and the caring and joy you gave us.

Fourth Candle: This light is the light of love; as we enter this holiday season day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us. We love you."

Anne is making a standing prime rib, I am making all the sides and because Anne's daughter is a vegetarian I am making her this mushroom pie. I've made it before for her. I think it will make her happy.  Who are you making happy this season?

Mushroom Pie with Sour Cream Crust: - Serves 6 to 8 as a main course

Crust: This is one of the easiest, most delicious pastry doughs I have ever worked with. Trust me, you're going to love it.

2 1/2 cups flour (you can use whole wheat or all purpose, unbleached white flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup sour cream (you can substitute Greek Style yogurt for less calories)

Whisk first three ingredients in bowl. Cut in the butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Add sour cream and stir until dough comes together. Shape dough into 2 disks, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out larger disk and fit into pie plate. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight. Wrap other (smaller) disc of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped shallots
6 cups coarsely chopped mushrooms (portabella, shitake, white button or any combination you like)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese (you can use Neufchatel style if you like) - room temperature and cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saute pan. Add onions and shallots and gently saute until translucent. About 5-8 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme. Saute until tender, about 10 minutes and most of liquid from mushrooms had cooked off.

Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.

Roll out smaller disc of dough and cut into strips. Form a lattice crust. Brush with egg white.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

A Cook's Notes: You can make this pie up to one day before. To reheat, cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Letter and Chicken Cordon Bleu


The housekeeper fired me. Yup. I got dumped.

Seems that Otilia doesn't think I need her anymore. With you gone and Jake and Julia away at college the house just doesn't need as much keeping as it used to. 

Zach and I pretty much live in just a few rooms of this old house and even those rooms (for some reason) don't need as much tending. 

So she dumped me. In the kindest way. I asked her to stay until the New Year and she agreed. After that I'm on my own in keeping this place in tip top shape. 

I noticed that in the kids' bathroom some of the grout in the shower was coming loose. I went to Home Depot this morning and bought a grout saw, grout, a rubber float and grout sponge. I spent the morning sawing out the old, loose grout, then regrouted. After it cures for 24 hours I'm going to rechaulk.

YOU taught me how to do that. Remember? When we were building and renovating this old house some of the work (to save money) we did ourselves. 

We laid the tile in the kitchen and bathrooms and after I knew enough about the wet saw and tiling and grouting I did the backsplash in the kitchen all by myself. 

Those were the days, weren't they? We were either too young, too dumb, or too broke to hire someone to do the work for us so we dove right in. We did pretty good too.

Thanks for teaching me some of the things I need to know.

Love you, miss you.

The Good Cook

TBHITW had a few recipes up his own sleeves. This recipe is one of his old stand-by's when he was out to impress me. It is the best Cordon Bleu I have ever eaten. Impressive for family and good enough for company. He taught me one or two things. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu (serves 6)

3 whole skinless chicken breasts pounded flat*
8 ounces Swiss cheese, sliced
8 ounces sliced ham
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white wine**
1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 teaspoon stock base
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup half and half, milk or heavy cream (depending on your cholesterol level)

Spread chicken breasts flat; fold cheese and ham slices to fit on top and fold breasts over filling and fasten edges with toothpicks.

Mix flour and paprika in a shallow bowl or pan and coat chicken pieces.

In a large skillet over medium heat melt butter until hot. Add chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Add wine* and bouillon. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes or until fork tender and juices run clear. 

In a cup, blend the cornstarch, milk, cream or half and half until smooth. 

Remove chicken to a plate, remove tooth picks, slice into 1/2 to 3/4 inch rounds and  tent with foil to keep warm.

Add the cornstarch blend to the pan with the juices and simmer until thick and smooth. 

Top the sliced chicken with the sauce and serve immediately.

*Pounding isn't pounding at all. Turn the chicken, shiny side down (skin side) and beginning at the center, use a sweeping motion to "pull" the chicken flat and thin. 

**If you are avoiding alcohol simply substitute chicken broth and omit the bouillon. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Because You Asked Rebecca - Magic Blanket

There is a story in each 12 X 12 square. It is an awesome story. And I live it in my heart every day.

Magic Blanket

Throughout our lives together we ran many races together. And many apart. Our collection of race T-shirts grew. Some of Jim's were quite old, dating back to the 70's and 80's. 

A few years ago I was culling the clothing and decided to make a quilt out of all the old "unwearable" T-shirts. Note: that is my description of some of TBHITW's ancient T's. He thought each and every one of them were just fine to wear. Oy-ee-vay.


I cut the fronts out of the shirts and pieced together a huge quilt. It became a bit of an albatross, growing larger by leaps and bounds. By the time it was done it was big enough to cover all five of us cuddled up on the sectional couch watching a movie. 

We named that quilt Magic Blanket because within minutes of wrapping yourself up in it you became warm and drowsy. Sleep, like magic.

Many nights now I find myself with a pot of tea or a glass of wine, wrapped up in Magic Blanket. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I watch TV. Lately I sit, wrapped up in Magic and stare at the lights on the Christmas tree. Or read the story of each T-shirt stitched into the blanket.

The fabric of our lives.

Annual St. Patrick's Day Race in Central Park.
Coffee and Green Bagels after the race.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thank A Soldier

If you go to this web site,   you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services. 
How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!!    It is FREE and it only takes a second. 
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these?    Whether you are for or against the war, our soldiers over there need to know we are behind them. 
This takes just 10 seconds and it's a wonderful way to say thank you.    Please take the time and please take the time to pass it on for others to do.  We can never say enough thank you's. 
Thanks for taking to time to support our military! 

A Cook's Notes: I sent a card from TBHITW. I choose the one from Michigan as it was his home state. I am all about honoring the men and women who serve this country. Won't you do the same?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stockings Hung and Lemon Curd

And the stockings were hung on the staircase with care.

I don't have a chimney.

And I couldn't find the red satin ribbon that I usually use to hang them. So I used poultry twine. What can I say, I'm a cook. I use what I have.

I couldn't bear to not hang TBHITW's stocking. TBHITW always called our stockings "socks". This was a point of contention with us. A Midwest versus East Coast kind of thing. He also called soda, "pop".. oy-ee-vay.

Maybe Santa will find it in his heart to put something in his sock.

I would like that; even if it is really a stocking.

Lemon Curd is expensive to buy but easy to make. If you want a treat on Christmas morning to top your waffles or French Toast or English Muffin or cheese cake or ice cream or whatever you eat on Christmas morning whip up a batch of this in the coming week or so. It keeps beautifully in your refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. It is sweet and sour - like this holiday is to me.

Lemon Curd: makes 2 cups (easily doubles)

3 lemons (unrefrigerated)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten well

Zest the lemons and mince the zest. Set aside.
Juice the lemons. Set aside.
Combine the zest, juice, butter and sugar. Place in a small saucepan or double boiler.

Cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.

Beat the eggs with a whisk. Add a small amount (2 tablespoons) of hot juice mixture to eggs to temper the eggs*.
Now add the egg mixture very (read very) slowly to the juice mixture. Make sure the heat is VERY low. (are you getting that I mean VERY?).
Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. DO NOT BOIL.  (about 10 minutes).
Cool slightly and pour into jars, custard cups or a sealable plastic storage bowl. (I like small jelly or mason jars for this).
Refrigerate and enjoy at will.

*A Cook's Notes: Tempering the eggs means adding a bit of the hot mixture to the eggs so that the eggs won't scramble when added to the hot ingredients. If you are patient you can do this!

PS: Tinsel by the fistful.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Birthday and Vanilla Scones

Happy 17th. Birthday bouncing baby boy. You were the best Christmas Gift I ever received. You are the gift that keeps on giving.

Your first day home

Your first best friend

Your first e-trade

Your first big boy bike

Jenna - your first girlfriend (don't make her mad)

The world is yours - go get it

Is there anything better than just turning 17 years old? Is there anything better than passing your driver's test on the first try on your 17th. birthday? Is there anything better than having mom pay your car insurance premium? 

Just one thing: your mom making you Vanilla Scones with freshly arrived Madagascar Vanilla Beans.

Vanilla Scones: makes 20 mini scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 cup regular full-fat sour cream
1 large egg yolk
2 fresh vanilla beans, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
water, as needed

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. 

Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. 

Using any method you prefer, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until flour resembles coarse meal, or use the following tip: The "grate" method: grate a block of cold butter against the large holes of a box grater. Toss the butter ribbons with the flour mixture, and then use two knives to cut the flour-coated ribbons into 1/4-inch pieces. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg yolk and vanilla bean seeds or extract until blended. Add this to the flour-butter mixture and stir with a fork until dough forms a cohesive ball. Use a spatula to get the dry bits fully incorporated. (It may not seem to have enough liquid at first, but the dough will eventually come together.). 

Place the sticky dough onto a parchment-lined (or ungreased) baking sheet and pat into a disk about 1-inch in height. Cut the dough into wedges but do not separate. Or scoop dough into a mini scone pan if available. (Yield will vary depending on how big you slice the wedges.). 

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. 

Prepare glaze while scones are baking. 

GLAZE: Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl, and add water one teaspoon at a time, mixing vigorously until smooth and runny. 

Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of glaze over the hot scones. Brushing rather than drizzling gives a smoother appearance and requires less glaze. 

Serve immediately. Store cooled scones in an airtight container.

Hug your baby because they grow up too fast.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sadness and Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I am having a sad day. A very sad day. Sad days call for comfort food. Even if I don't feel like eating.

My sister M sent me this recipe. Today seems like the perfect day to make it.

Panera Bread's Broccoli Cheddar Soup: (serves 4)

1 TB Butter, melted
1/2 medium onion diced
1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour 
2 c half and half (M uses 1 cup half and half and 1 cup milk)
2 c chicken stock
1/2 lb broccoli (fresh or frozen)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Saute onion in the 1TB butter until soft.  Add the 1/4 c butter and when
melted, add the flour.  Wisk over medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes.  Stirring
constantly, slowly add the half and half.  When incorporated, add the
chicken stock, continue stirring.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring
every few minutes.  Add the broccoli and cook over low heat until tender,
about 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.  Use a hand immersion blender to
chop up the broccoli.  ( I don't completely blend it - I like small chunks
of broccoli).  Add grated cheese and stir until melted and combined.  Stir
in nutmeg.  Serve with crusty bread.

Eat on a sad day. Repeat as often as necessary.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Angels Who Walk Among Us

I belong to an online grief support group. It is called Daily Strength. The people there are the most amazing people I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. One of the members posed a question a week or so ago and received an astonishing 117 replies.

What did she do with those replies? She turned her own sadness, her own grief into a beautiful tribute to all of us and to all of our loved ones who have gone before us.

Here is her tribute. Note: Every one of these pictures contain a missed, loved and cherished spouse.

God Bless You Judi - I am so humbled to call you friend.

Please take the time to watch the video - in doing so you will honor me and my many friends in remembering our loved ones.

In Judi's words:

It started a few weeks ago when i posted a seemingly simple request for all of us to introduce ourselves again, as there were so many new names. and to also add what you were praying for during this season of hope. 
the response was beyond my wildest imagination. 117 people stood up proudly and with open hearts, told their stories. but what amazed me the most was that through all the grief, every last person who responded had a prayer. 

i spent a week reading the profiles of all who responded, and i ended up realizing that this little post was in the end, my Christmas miracle. to see everyone's life before grief, was so beautiful that my heart almost burst with happiness for the miracles of love. 

so i needed to do something with all this beauty, and decided to invite 117 guests into my heart for the holidays. i took every last answer to that post and copied them onto luminary bags and yesterday i lit them. and as each was lit and placed in my driveway , i said your prayers. i wish i had a camera to take the night picture, as they are gorgeous in the dark, but please know they will stay lit as long as the weather allows. 

the best gift of the season is to remember the happier times and the love that lives on..... and to know that we are not alone..... we have each other. 
so, the following link is a remembrance to the 117 guests that will live in my heart on Christmas day. i know that many of you that answered did not have photos to be included in this, but please know that you do have a luminary with your prayer. 
i can not thank you all enough, 
i so hope you enjoy watching this, it helped me so much to see the beauty of the lives that brought us all to this place! 
enjoy, and my most heartfelt thanks and love to 117 hearts here on earth, and 117 angels in heaven 
happy holidays 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tinsel and Caviar Pie

TBHITW loved Christmas. 

It's as simple as that. He LOVED Christmas. 
He loved everything about it. EVERYTHING.

Every year he would take a day off from work to shop. He loved the music (always started playing Christmas music officially on the Friday after Thanksgiving). He loved the malls that were decorated. He loved the crowds. He loved the lights, the food, everything. 

But he especially loved tinsel on the Christmas tree. 

He had a special technique for putting tinsel on the tree. He would grab a handful, stand back about 5 feet and throw it at the tree. 

Me, I'm a one strand on each branch kind of girl. 

Because we believe in compromise, one year he would get his method of tinsel and the next I would get mine. 

This worked for many years until about 2 or 3 years ago when I relented and just let him have his way. He got such joy out of it... who was I go argue? 

This morning as I was showering, getting ready to take my grandlittles to see The Nutcracker Ballet (featuring The Moscow Ballet Company - yes! Those Russians can dance).. I was thinking about Christmas and all the gift giving. My DIL had suggested that in addition to the Ballet tickets I might want to fund the grandlittle's winter swimming lessons. As I was showering I was thinking perhaps that was too much. The tickets to the ballet, lunch, etc.. would be enough of a gift. (yes, I was thinking cheap)... When I stepped out of the shower, there, on the bath mat was a single strand of tinsel. 
Now let me tell you.... I have not dragged out a single ornament. Besides, my bathroom is on the third floor - 2 stories away from where we store the Christmas ornaments. How did it get there?
I stopped cold in my tracks (in my towel) and stared at that single strand of tinsel. Then I started laughing. Then I cried. Then I laughed again. Then I went into the office and wrote out a check for swimming lessons. 

TBHITW continues to guide me. And I will be putting a bit of tinsel in every Christmas card I send this year. I might even throw it by the handful onto our Christmas tree. 

This is a decadent, beautiful dish. Easy to make and lovely to serve on a buffet table. 

Caviar Pie: serves 15-20 people

1 10" springform cake pan
1 doz. eggs, hard boiled & cooled
1 1/2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1 lg. pkg. cream cheese
1 sm. container sour cream
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 (4 oz.) jar lumpfish caviar

Finely chop eggs and combine with mayonnaise. Spread mixture evenly in springform pan. Sprinkle onion over top of mixture. Mix cream cheese, sour cream and lemon juice together until smooth and spread over the onions and egg mixture. Cover pan.Chill for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible. Just prior to serving, run knife around side of pan, remove springform side. (Set pan on serving platter first.) Spread caviar on top. Serve with a variety of crackers.

A Cook's Note: This may sound expensive but the entire pie, excluding crackers, costs approximately $12.00 to make and will serve about 15-20 people. Use black lumpfish or for a really festive look choose red lumpfish.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tis The Season

Well okay then universe. I hear you. 
I got out the Christmas greens and wrapped the front porch railings, it looks nice. I put the two little white reindeer and placed them in the serenity garden next to the Japanese Maple and they look nice too. Then the wind started blowing yesterday and knocked down the reindeer. The bigger of the two - the one with the antlers, now has broken antlers - he looks like a floppy eared rabbit. The smaller of the two fell over and broke his neck. I put them both back upright and looked at them. They are pitiful with their floppy antlers and crooked neck. I think they are just perfect. They remind me of me a little, broken but still standing.
I wasn't going to send Christmas cards this year - we always bought personalized cards with a picture of our lastest adventure. How many trips around the world did those Santa Hats make? Well, I ordered cards last night. Some people may think they are creepy but I like them. I used the last picture I took of Jim (2 days before he died) 

- walking down the beach with the dog.. walking into the light.. and I added the caption
Jim S***
July 7, 1958 - August 11, 2010
May your holidays be filled with wondrous moments; past, present and future.
So there.
I went shopping yesterday and I'm almost done with gifts for the kids. Not a lot - but enough. There are a couple of other special little touches I want to do - personal things of Jim's that I know they will hold dear. 
Jim loved Christmas and I am going to honor him and his memory by making this Christmas about Christmas - the real Christmas. 
I have plans to attend Mass on Christmas Eve and then we will all go to our good friends house for a late dinner. I ordered a prime rib yesterday and Anne and I will cook together in fellowship. We will drink a toast to Jim - to all the Christmases he made so special and over the top. I won't make it "over the top"... that was his job. But I will make it beautiful and memorable and peaceful. 
Broken antlers and all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tea Time and Cranberry-Nut Bread

Lately I have been enjoying afternoon tea.

Proper tea.

Where you brew loose tea in a proper teapot and serve it in a proper teacup atop a saucer.

Sometimes at night, after dinner, I brew another pot of something soothing - camomile or mint or earl gray. The 16 year old often joins me (I get a kick out of that). We sit together, have a cookie or a scone, sip our tea and chat for a few minutes. TBHITW and I often enjoyed tea together on frosty winter nights but that was before I discovered the civility of a teapot and proper tea cups. We always sipped ours from steaming mugs with the tea strings wrapped around the handles.

This cranberry-nut bread is a perfect addition to a spot of tea. It is sweet and tangy and comforting. If you haven't already finished your Thanksgiving day shopping this bread may be a welcome addition to your table. If you are traveling, I recommend it as a perfect hostess gift. Perhaps along side a proper teapot.

Cranberry-Nut Bread: makes 2 loaves

Fresh cranberries, about 3 cups whole
2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder*
1 teaspoon baking soda*
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter
1 egg
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 1/2 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter and flour 2 loaf pans.

Rinse the berries and discard any soft or wrinkled ones. Place in a food processor and pulse about 5 times until rough chopped. Measure out 1 1/2 cups for the recipe.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar. With a pastry blender or 2 butter knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it has the consistency of rolled oats. Add the egg, orange juice and orange zest and mix well using a wooden spoon. Stir in the cranberries, raisins and nuts.

Divide the batter between the two loaf pans. Bake for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven, set on racks and let cool completely in the pans before turning out. Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices to serve.

*with the holiday season coming into full swing and ovens working over time with holiday baking now is the time to buy fresh baking powder and baking soda. Use any old baking soda in your fridge or freezer or pour down the garbage disposal to freshen it.

A Cook's Notes: these loaves give off the best aroma when baking so don't be surprised if one loaf disappears before you ever get to tea time. For breakfast, a slice of this bread toasted and then smeared with a dab of cream cheese will cure whatever is ailing you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Being Thankful

I went to Costco yesterday with a friend, she needed a few things and I went along for the ride.

Costco assaulted me.

That's the only way I can put it.

It is not even Thanksgiving yet and the entire store was decked out in Christmas lights, trees, bows, ribbons, wrappings and sparkling gifts just waiting to be snatched up by eager shoppers.

I stood in the middle of Costco stunned.

I KNOW the holidays are coming. I wish I could fly away somewhere - but where don't they celebrate Christmas?

I cried in the middle of Costco. I don't think I can do Christmas this year. I don't think I have the strength.

Instead, I am going to concentrate on Thanksgiving.

Here is what I am thankful for:

I am thankful that I had a wonderful marriage full of love, respect and humor.
I am thankful for the years I had with my husband.
I am thankful that TBHITW did not suffer in life or in death.
I am thankful that I have a loving family who listens to me, loves me and offers me their support.
I am thankful that my family is healthy.
I am thankful that I have a home.
I am thankful that we are safe from the terrors of the world.
I am thankful that the life TBHITW and I had was the best life we could possibly have had.
I am thankful for all of you who read this blog and keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

What are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Imaging Center

I went for my annual mammogram today at The Imaging Center.

I have gone to the same facility for the past nine years.

The receptionist asked me to update all my contact information.

Address: Same
Phone: Same
Email: Same
Insurance: change
Who to contact in case of emergency.........

Who to contact in case of emergency?

How many times over the years did I write in TBHITW's name and cell phone number. A hundred? A thousand? How many forms at how many doctor offices?

Who to contact in case of emergency?
My vision blurred as my eyes filled up with tears.

The receptionist was busy entering my new insurance information into the computer. She didn't notice my tears or my hesitation.

I finally took a deep breath and wrote in the line next to: Who to contact in case of emergency?


Humor helps sometimes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Swimming Through Grief

I joined our community's indoor pool.

I used to swim. A lot.

I was nervous when I entered the Ladies Locker room today. I hadn't done any lap swimming for many  years.

I had my brand new Speedo swim suit (modest cut) on. I had a brand new Speedo swim cap and goggles.

I stowed all my stuff in a locker and wrapping a towel around me followed the signs to the indoor pool. Six lanes were marked off for lap swimmers. Three were occupied. I choose lane #5.

The air was warm but the water was cold. I eased myself into the five foot deep water, did some stretching and looked around. The teenage lifeguard looked bored. The other swimmers were deep into their own exercise routine.

I pushed off from the side and glided easily into the water. One stroke, two. It all came back. Freestyle, Breast Stroke, Backstroke, Butterfly, rest. Side Stroke. Ease back into freestyle. Breathe. No one was watching. Everyone was occupied with their own rhythm, their own strokes.

Four laps, five. Ten. Fifteen. My heart was beating out of my chest. I remembered to kick. To breathe. To ease into each stroke. My body remembered. My brain went into autopilot. Stroke. Breathe. Kick.

The water eased over me and through me. I forgot about everything. Time. Grief. Loneliness. Stroke, Breathe. Kick. Turn. Another lap.

Fifteen minutes passed, thirty minutes passed. I swam. I breathed. Twenty laps.

When finally my legs were shaking, my shoulder aching and I could barely raise my arms over my head I climbed out of the pool.

I am swimming through grief. I am going back tomorrow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Full House

The 41st. running of the NYC Marathon took place yesterday.

Over 45,000 people ran this year. Forty-one years ago 127 people ran for an admission fee of $1.00.

My brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their children arrived Friday night. Mark and Dee would be running on Sunday.

My table was full for the first time in many weeks.

So were my evenings, after dinner, when we gathered to just talk and be a family.

This is Shane. What a difference a year makes! Happy, healthy and cancer free!

It was a difficult race for Mark and Dee. The conditions were cold and windy. Emotions ran high as they raced with Fred's Team, raising money for Pediatric Cancer Research. They also ran for the memory of Jim, TBHITW and marathon lover.

When they arrived back "home" from NY we popped a bottle of champagne and laughed and talked about the race. Then everyone ate one last dinner together before the runners headed off to sleep - exhausted, but happy for making the journey of 26.2 miles. It was a full day.

This morning they all packed up and headed home to Michigan.

As I was tidying up the guest room I found this Marathon shirt and note on the bed:

The note reads,

Thank you so much for letting us feel like we never left our home! You and the kids are always in our prayers and thoughts.
It goes without saying that a day doesn't go by that we don't think of Jimmy. We just want you to know we are always here for you and the kids.
Please take this shirt as a small 'thank you'. Jimmy's marathon shirt went to heaven with him, but I like to think another one came back to your home. It can never replace his shirt, but I hope it reminds you to keep moving forward, just like a marathon."

I read this note clutching the shirt to me and then with a full heart, I cried.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Marathon Weekend and Fettucine Alfredo

This weekend is the running of the 41st. New York City Marathon.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law and three children are on their way from Michigan as I type this. They will arrive sometime today, around dinner time.

Mark and Dee will be running on Sunday as part of Fred's Team. Thank you all for supporting them in their efforts.

My niece, Kaitlyn, had one request. Would I make them Fettucine Alfredo as their carbo loaded dinner?

I am a sucker for food requests. This evening, when they arrive we will sit down to this decadent pasta dinner. We will join our hands in prayer and thank our God and the universe for a cancer free year for Shane. We will also remember in our hearts TBHITW - husband, father, brother, uncle. He would have been so happy to have our table full of family and good food.

On, On.

Fettucine Alfredo: 

  • 1 pound dried fettucine
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • shallot, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional


Cook the fettucine in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al denteDrain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepanover medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until tender. Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in, set over medium-high heat along with the reserved cooking liquid. Add the butter-creammixture and half of the Parmesan and toss to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

TBHITW - Last Year in NY at the Marathon

Mark and Dee - Last year's marathon - Mark had shaved his head in solidarity with Shane
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