I Can Always Learn More About Sushi!

A Blog About Japanese Food (Sushi!) – I’m In!

So, this blog post about sushi came just came through my feed.  Those who know me well are aware of my foodie-ness and interest in what people eat in other parts of the world.  I dove right in and took a look.  You can, too, here at Pickled Plum.  Caroline over there is a foodie, a photographer, a model, and sells Japanese cooking things and a cookbook on her website.  It was inevitable her blog would show up in my stream one of these days, given my years of making Japanese food a semi-serious hobby.  Ask me about my vast and pristine bento box collection sometime. I’ve been following her blog for a short while, and have enjoyed the beautiful food photos (anticipated, given her background) as well as some more in-depth than usual facts about jJapanese food.

photo of a variety of sushi

When this sushi/sashimi/musubi post showed up, I clicked so I could read more.  As Caroline has lived in Japan and I have not, I was curious to compare sushi in Japan and sushi in the United States.

As I mentioned, I have not lived in Japan; I’ve never even visited.  My practical knowledge is limited to some (no, I’m not sharing
how many) decades of experience eating in Japanese American restaurants, living in communities with a high concentration of Japanese Americans, and dating a Japanese American guy. Can you see a theme here?  My experience is in one country, Caroline’s is in the other – I was revved to read and compare.

I’ve also read every Japanese cookbook I could find, authored by experts in both countries, and plowed through a few Food of Japan and History of Sushi reference books.  So, though not practical, some of my knowledge does come by way of Asia.

Ready to Learn and Discern? Here We Go!

What Goes into that Sushi?

  • Sushi ~ Sushi means seasoned rice, used to make various sushi dishes.  I say sushi rice is sweetened with mirin and seasoned with rice vinegar; Caroline says rice seasoned with sugar, vinegar, and salt.  Neither of us mentions that monosodium glutamate was used in sushi rice decades ago, both in Japan and the United States.  And most of the time, when people say sushi, they mean the various things made with sushi rice, not just the rice.
  • Onigiri ~ Warm, salted rice is hand-shaped, usually in a triangle about the size of the palm of your hand.  Flavorful items may be mixed throughout the rice or hidden in the center.  Sometimes onigiri are wrapped in seaweed.  Onigiri are meant to be portable, are often found in lunch boxes in Japan, and are served at room temperature.
  • Nigiri ~  I’ve always understood that nigiri refers to a small rectangle of sushi rice with a thin slice of fish or other topping on it.
    • Nope, Pickled Plum says that dish is nigiri sushi and that nigiri is the same as onigiri.
  • Nori ~ Nori is thin, dried seaweed sheets, used for making maki sushi. Actually, now that we’ve finally become comfortable in America with the idea of dried seaweed, I feel okay elaborating and sharing that nori is made with a species of algae called pyropia, which is raised and harvested by some pretty fancy aquaculture.
  • Maki ~ Maki is a sushi roll consisting of fish or another ingredient surrounded by sushi rice and wrapped in nori to make a cylinder, which is sliced for serving.  Maki is made by layering nori, then rice, then the filling on a special bamboo mat and wrapping it tightly so the cylinder holds together. Tekkamaki are skinny, futomaki are fat, uramaki are inside out, and tempi are rolled by hand into an easily consumed cone shape.photo of sashimi
  • Musubi ~ Musubi on a menu tells me there is some connection to Hawaiian culture afoot.  Musubi is a big, flattish maki made with plain rice, a grilled slice of spam, and teriyaki sauce.  It is served warm.  Spam was introduced to Hawaii by our Navy.  Sailors stationed in Pearl Harbor enjoyed (?) this salty, canned meat product invented by Hormel and marketed tothe military as a shelf-stable substitute for real meat.  Spam wouldn’t spoil in the hot tropics of Hawaii, and is now popular in a number of dishes there, including music.
    • Who knew? Pickled Plum states that musubi is the same as onigiri and nigiri.
  • Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish, and, since it has no rice, is not sushi.

Sushi often includes that effective sinus clearing green condiment, wasabi.  Alongside the little cone of wasabi paste, you’re likely to see a small mound of sweet pickled ginger.

I so enjoyed exploring Caroline’s blog, Pickled Plum.  All kinds of great stuff over there.  Hope you take a look too!


Photos in this post come from Pixabay and are released under Creative Commons CCO.


parsley growing in my garden


parsley-in-bedParsley!  Who would think this humble herb would have such strong attachment to my Italian heritage?

It is early spring,  cold and damp enough to require extra layers. One of those sun-barely-up mornings that calls me to wander the yard and see whats up.  I’m in my jammies and bare feet, against every ounce of my common sense adultness.  All around me is tinged a warm sort of pink from the rising sun.  No cars, no planes, no music or doorbells or conversations, just an occasional twitter or tweet, the kind that birds make.  Emergence and rebirth, the scent of damp earth, a scampering bunny escaping the threat of me… this time of year a survey of my city-lot size domain of green brings peace, stillness, a calm.  Steam swirled up from my coffee cup, my only source of warmth. It’d be a short exploration.

As I wandered into my rain-soaked garden I  saw determined parsley plants pushing up through the mud.  This year, they’ve beat they’ve managed to beat the chives and the daffodils.  Determined little plants!  Back in the day, my Italian grandmother, Nonni, grew  parsley.  She was in California, so her garden had bundles of green year-round.  They grew in a long bed that followed the fence delineating property boundaries.  On the other side, the Gaspars had concrete, but my grandparents yard was green everywhere.  The parsley shared space with lilies of the valley.  Wow, I wish I’d have a high definition camera back then.  Or any camera, for that matter.  I think I was six, and of course preserving what was plain old normal at Nonni and Grandpa’s never crossed my mind.  Now, decades later, I can still see, smell, feel that little tiny piece of my past.

Back then, the only parsley everyone else knew about was that curly stuff. It usually showed up on a restaurant plate next to the baked potato.  And nobody ever ate it, ever!

But my Nonni grew flat-leaf parsley from seed she’d brought from Roccamonfina. That parsley came across the Atlantic in steerage, tucked away in a little packet just like the ones that held future tomato and zucchini and pepper plants.  Nonni nurtured and pampered and encouraged those little seeds into a small but productive garden in the tiny lot they shared with several families Methuen.  Then they made it over to Lawrence, again a small city lot, hardly enough sun, but they grew and ate every year, and saved seeds for the next season.  Finally, a big move to sunny southern California.  Oh my, the garden flourished!  Grandpa was retired by then, and he would spend half his days puttering, trimming his roses, plucking tomato beetles, shooing the chickens, trimming the lawn. Grandpa had a green thumb.

Nonni would hand me the shears and scoot me out, the screen door banging behind me.   And I would  snip parsley, just a little from each plant, not too much, so more would grow back for next time. I’d come back into the house with an armful of fragrant greenery.  Then I’d help her mince and mash that parsley with salt and lots of garlic, making a pungent paste. It would seem to take forever to come together into the absolutely smooth consistency Nonni required.  Later, my mother would be express her horror that  Nonni had let a youngster handle a sharp knife.  That perfectly smooth paste would go into Nonni’s braciole. I still dream about that rolled steak and the cooked-all-day sauce that went with it.

Our Italian heritage is more than name, language, history.  We find our culture and our past in the simplest of things sometimes, and some of our strongest connections come at random… like walking through a rain-soaked herb garden just after dawn on an early spring morning.

Macaroni and Cheese, Family History, and the Blue Box

Macaroni and Cheese, Family History, and the Blue Box

american-kraft-macaroni-cheese-family-size-dinner-306-pI never tasted skinny orange macaroni and cheese from a blue box until I was married.  Some would consider me to have been deprived of a normal childhood.  I may have considered myself a victim, had a known back in the day.

Macaroni and cheese in our home consisted of a large pot full of elbow macaroni with a cube of butter melted over and  lots of grated parmesan (or romano) cheese.  Sometimes it was bowtie noodles or those cute little shell ones.  I remember once it was little orecchiette that a great aunt brought back from a trip back to the old country.  Our macaroni and cheese was never baked in a casserole, never had a crunchy topping, and was most certainly never orange.  And we never knew we were missing out on something everyone else took for granted.  Poor us!

Way back when, my new husband asked me to make him mac and cheese… from a box.  I bought the blue box, which back then set us back about twenty cents, and carefully followed the instructions.DSC_0084 Switching from butter to margarine was something new.  Substituting day-glo orange powder for actual cheese tested my limits.  But I persevered, and successfully prepared the dish.   Which my husband put in a bowl, sprinkled with salt, and ate with a fork.  And he was pleased.

So then this recipe for pressure cooker mac and cheese crosses my path. Humph.  All these years of not eating the stuff, and this comes along.  Call the carb police, because this creamy, crispy-topped gooey cheesy heaven is pure comfort food.  Sincere thanks, Mike.

This Muggle Thinks Bad Owl Coffee Wasn’t So Good

This Muggle Thinks Bad Owl Coffee Wasn’t So Good

IMG_1774Sometimes I wake up at 3:00 with a compulsion to write.  I have never ever awakened at 3:00 am with a compulsion to write a restaurant review.  First time for everything….

That New Harry Potter Themed Coffee Place in Vegas

I’m not a wand-carrying Harry Potter fanatic, but I do think the book and movies are (1) pretty darn good and (2) kind of iconic.  And who doesn’t love coffee?  Well, lots of people, but I’m not one of them.  I like coffee.

So, when my social media exploded with news of a Harry Potter themed coffee place opening in Las Vegas NV literally days before I was to be in sin city, I had to add it to my itinerary.  You have to know I have an amazingly transparent internet presence, so of course I’m not in the least amazed at the magic of such precision targeted marketing.  In any case, I made it a point to drive myself down there to give it a try.  Henderson is kind of off the tourist beaten track, and this place is in a strip mall at the far end of a Eastern Ave, the long busy street with every chain restaurant and retail establishment imaginable.  And the traffic to go with it.  So getting there was a bit of an effort.

We arrived early afternoon, and spent a good ten minutes finding a place to park.  The line out the door testified to the success of the blitz marketing campaign.  Bad Owl Coffee had been open for exactly two weeks and there was a line out the door.  Good sign, right?

My companion and I took our place in the queue and glanced around.  It was immediately clear that we were decades beyond the target market in age, attire and demeanor. The clatter and chatter, high ceiling and hard surfaces made conversation nearly impossible, so we perused the coffee/tea menu and took a look in the pastry case.

While we waited, surveyed our surroundings to evaluate the Harry Potter-ness of the place.  There was a really really nifty metallic owl sculpture on the counter.  I’d have been happy to take that home and put it in my office.  A brick wall in the back with a Hogwarts Express sign.  Beyond that, a wooden direction sign back near the restrooms likely had familiar destinations, but I never actually got close enough to confirm that. The tables had themed words and symbols etched into them, pretty cool.  Definitely not in-your-face Harry Potter, but enough to claim a theme.  Fans will be pleased, I think.

We made it to the front.  I was curious about the Butterbrew latte, particularly since it was the only drink on the menu that that gave a nod to the theme that had been so highly hyped in all the press.  Well, okay, they did offer a lavender latte, and there is a Lavender Brown character in HP.  I suppose I should give them that, too. Other than that, a typical menu of the same old  hot and cold coffee drinks and some nice teas.

Speaking of the press, remember how I said I didn’t feel particularly special about getting that marketing blitz on my screens?  Man, was I right about that.  A quick google search brought up what appeared to be a very  intentional marketing explosion.  One had the owner expressing “surprise” that so many people had heard of them.  Every single article/tweet/post featured “Harry Potter” prominently  To be honest, I’m impressed with the marketing – the place had been open exactly two weeks and there was a line out the door.  Well done.Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 3.31.53 AM

Okay, back to the front of the line.  I asked how long they’d been open.  “Weeks”, was the response.  I don’t know why or how, but she made “weeks” sound vague. Wow, I’ve been at new eateries and coffeeshops bunches of times, and they can usually tell you the day , the date, sometimes the hour they opened. They’re  proud and excited and pumped. Clearly not the case with this young lady.  Fine, maybe she’s had a long day.  I can sympathize with fatigue.

So I let it go and inquired “What flavor do you put in the Butterbrew latte? Butterscotch?  Or something else?.”   “Butterbrew is butterscotch and a secret flavor I cannot reveal.” The response was flat, as if she’d answered that question a thousand times already.  She probably had,  but hey, every customer right now is still brand new. If you’re already bored with it, then why am I here?   The shine of all that promotion was beginning to tarnish.

Of course I ordered the Butterbrew latte – that was why we’d come.  I told her I prefer my drinks not so sweet and asked for half the typical syrup.  She replied that there drinks weren’t too sweet.  Okaaaay.  Then she asked, I kid you not, if I wanted the espresso shots in my drink.  I am taken aback.  What? Aren’t their lattes made with espresso?  Well, yes, she explained, but sometimes we leave the shots out for children.  Excuse me?  I’m a middle aged woman and my companion was 20 years my senior.  Children?  Yes, of course I wanted the espresso shots in my latte. By now I am as close to speechless as anyone has ever seen me.  As we turn to the next spot to pay, she rolls her eyes.  Apparently she thinks un-hip women over the age of 22 who want espresso in their espresso drinks are blind as well as overly demanding.  Wow.

I loved that they had a chip-reader that worked – so many businesses are still working on that.  I didn’t love that I was charged $2.00 more than the price on the menu.  Are coffee taxes that high in Las Vegas?  By now my companion was uncomfortable with the noise level and was eager to escape the chaos, so I just skipped the option to tip between 15 and 30 percent and signed the tablet.  I glanced at the tip jar, which contained three five dollar bills.  No change, no singles.  Five. Dollar. Bills.  Seriously?

So we waited.  And  then waited.  And waited some more.  And then my name was called, mispronounced horribly, which is just not acceptable in such a hipster environment.  And I was handed a three-quarters-full lidless cup.  Maybe they were having a milk shortage.  My job, apparently, to grab the lid from a pile and wedge it on the cup myself.  SomeIMG_1776day they’re going to regret that idea when the cup slips and someone’s drink splatters all over that tablet.  Thankfully, that day was not today and that somebody was not me.  I know, people close to me will be amazed.

We escape to one of the two outside tables for relative quiet of the parking lot and street traffic.  We sit, and I take a sip.  My 12-second old latte was lukewarm.  I cannot taste the secret ingredient.  I cannot taste the espresso, though I saw them put it in there.   I can taste butterscotch syrup.  Lots and lots and lots of butterscotch syrup.  Maybe it needed a mix.  I swirled the cup, took another sip.  Even more cloying.

For the first time in my life, ever, I threw away a six and a half dollar coffee drink.

Full disclosure – I am picky about my coffee.  At home I drink a light roast espresso that comes from Italy.  When I’m not traveling, I prefer a local place that roasts their own organic beans.  I don’t like to drink “brews” from that giant chain that not longer actually pulls shots because yuck.  As for chains, give me Dutch Bros, who knows how to make a good cuppa and has fun doing it.

But I am cheap and I like my caffeine and I’m almost certain I’ve never ever discarded a just purchased, full cup of anything.  I’ll choke down almost any beverage if I’d payed that much.  Ask anyone who’s ever met me at a Starbucks.

So, final take?  The decor is as Harry Potterish as they can be without violating Universal’s

copyrights, I suppose.  The owners have marketed the hell out of the place.  The butterscotch concoction is a nod to Harry Potter fans, but poorly executed.  The price is high, the coffee isn’t that good, and apparently customers who aren’t young and hip and extra attractive need not wander in.

So, Harry Potter fans will check it out.  Once.  At least for now, until that double-edged social media sword swings.  Even without a high-precision carefully executed marketing plan, the word will get out.

Good luck, Bad Owl Coffee.

What, Me? Committed?  About Those Resolutions…..

What, Me? Committed? About Those Resolutions…..

2015_16So I took several posts to share my plans for the New Year.  My resolutions, if you will.  Then I sort of fell off the virtual earth.  Been awfully quiet around here, I know.  So, after taking a peek back at what I said, I think it is only fair to share what I actually did.  Here we go.

I’ll start right away with That Temperature Scarf.  I’ll admit I did get a bit behind.  I used my most recent road trip as an excuse.  Who wants to haul 8 balls of yarn around?  In any case, I found a great website, wunderground.  It’s a weather site, and the fun part is that people who have home weather stations can post all kinds of weather-related activity.  So, I found one right near my house, and, funny world that we live in, I actually know the folks who are sharing their data.  She’s a talented (read: published) novelist and they have two super-smart sons.  Daughter used to play tennis with the older one, back in the day.  But I digress.  I printed up a blank calendar, and, from their weather station, I jot down the high and low temperature for each day. Since each day is only two short rows of knitting (it is a scarf, after all), I sit down every week or two and get the needles going. Since it was so cold, I decided to make a daily low scarf.  Perhaps later I’ll make another for high temps.  I’m pleased to say not only is January complete, but based on one month’s worth of stitches, it looks like my scarf-of-lows will be a bit long, but not freakishly so.

Good for me!

Now, let’s talk about Taming the Paper.  I’m proud to say my kitchen counter is clear, the shredder is busy and I fill my recycle bin each week.  I do have a couple of paper projects to finish. I need to send that registration paperwork for Rosy the Therapy Dog (and AKC Canine Good Citizen!).

paperworks needs to be done- stack of papers, folders and envelops

A bunch of bill-paying is set to automatic now, wish I’d done that ages ago.  Taxes are nearly done, FAFSA will be finished right after Uncle’s stuff gets e-filed.  What is FAFSA, you say?  Lucky you!  Someday when your offspring head off to college, you’ll know the pleasure and pain of FAFSA.  Simply put, FAFSA is an annual online entry of a bunch of information you’ve already shared with the IRS.  Your child(ren) don’t get any financial aid if FAFSA isn’t done.  Magazine piles are gone – yay me!  Why am I still getting magazines?  Oh well, they’ll all expire eventually.  I’m using all the time I’m saving to plan a big trip.  Anyone have good hints on cheap car rentals in Europe?

So far, so good!

Those Genealogy Files.  Well, I’d kind of vowed to go through and remove errors and get everything organized and beautiful.  I made some progress, I really did!  I’ve got an indexed list of everybody and another list of all the things that need rechecking.  I’ve added a bunch of photos to dead people’s profiles.  I made it through a major genealogical panic when it looked like my software was going kaput, and found a solution and rode out that storm with only a few chewed fingernails.  I’ve backed up and got caught up on correspondence.

But the occasional search is just way too tempting.  And how can you deny me the pleasure of finding treasures like this?   I mean, honestly, this is just too fascinating to let go.  The_Escanaba_Daily_Press__Escanaba__MI__4_May_1948__Tue__death_of_Helen_Duprie_at_age_36I’m not exactly sure who she is, but I’m almost certain she’s related to my great-grandfather.  This clipping is from 1948.
So, not only must I find some time to figure out exactly who she is, but I must, must do a little digging and see if they found out why she died after eating a hamburger.  Did she choke?  Was she poisoned?  Did the counter clerk hit her over the head with a brick for non-payment?  Seriously, this merits attention.  Then I’ll get right back to organizing and cleaning my genealogy files, I promise.

Now, about that long list of Random Resolutions.  There were twenty of them.  I won’t bore you with every detail, but I have managed to keep on top of 18 of them.  I even scheduled the damn mammogram.  It is so very difficult to not yell at the tv, what with this being an election year, but I’m trying.  I’d say 50% success on that one.  I’ve blown it completely on baking cookies more often.  In my defense, however, I’ve been getting my fanny to the gym and just snagged a treadmill.  Why would I bake cookies when I’m working so hard to remove the sweets deposited on my hips?  I will make a batch soon, and it will go straight in a box to be sent to Daughter at college.  My plants are watered, I knit and write and read nearly every day, and I watch His shows without whining too much.  And I’m giving that forgive thing a great effort.  I’d say mostly a win on Resolutions 2016.

Granted, it is only February.  I may have to revisit this in a couple of months.


Thanksgiving 2015, Reviewed

Thanksgiving 2015, Reviewed

Feast is finished, dishes are done, leftovers are almost gone.  Time to review Turkey Day 2015.

A dozen of us gathered round, chattered and nibbled and feasted and enjoyed one another.  Our friends’ dogs are always welcome, so we monitored their competition for title of Beggar Extraordinaire.  Unanimous decision – the dogs won.

The Not-So-Great

I say, get the negative out of the way first, then we can bask in the glow of the good parts.

  • Single digit temperatures and an ice storm kept some folks (and their dogs) away.  Rosy was disappointed as she only had one big dog to hang out with.
  • Daughter couldn’t make it, for the first time, ever.  Missed her loads.
  • One couple arrived 135 mimnutes prior to designated time, and had to witness me, hair still damp, desparately trying to make my home guest-worthy.  This year’s photos confirm that I never did manage to get back to finishing my hair.
  • An acute asthma attack sent a guest and his wife packing as they headed home to find an inhaler and some Benadryl.
  • That asthma incident ended in some guests being stranded at ours – no biggie driving them home, but the return trip was ghastly.  Apparently I was the only one out there with tread on my tires and the ability to drive in winter conditions.  Nothing to put the fear of fate in you like a chevy in front crawling along at 12 mph whilst the giant camper van behind is so close you can’t even see his taillights.  Took an hour to go about six miles.  Yes, I guess I’m griping.

But, as far as griping goes, I guess that isn’t so bad.  Some friends suggest we enjoy Thanksgiving because none of us were actually with family.  I can see a wee bit of merit to that idea.  All in all, despite a couple of bumps (and what Thanksgiving gathering doesn’t have those?), I’d say this year was a winner.

Moving on to all the good parts…

Before the Feed

Mulled wine in a crockpot  – perfect for a blustery day.  Yes, it was my intent to get eveyrone warmed up and maybe a tiny bit lubricated.  And here’s what was out for grazers wandering through the kitchen – easy to snag without slowing down conversations:

  • Veggie tray with ranch dressing, by request.  The only diner who touched this was the guest who asked for it.
  • Eggplant red pepper spread, served with rosemary crostini, devoured with full-mouthed muffled compliments.  I’ll definitely serve this again.
  • The cheese & cracker tray received much less attention than usual.   It was suggested that some plain old cheddar and a good baby swiss would have been better.  I’d laid out some more adventurous choices.  Lesson learned.
  • From scratch gooey cheesy spinach artichoke dip, should have made twice as much.  Good thing I’d tucked a little extra in the fridge, just in case.  Madam microwave to the rescue as I had to replenish the bowl.

All in all, before dinner visiting and munching went off without a hitch.  Introductions, small talk, dogs underfoot, catching up… I love my kitchen right before we all sit down.  Happy hungry people, on to the main event…

The Feast

IMG_0332It was more than a decade before our dining room actually housed a place to dine – took that long for Dave and I to find one we agreed upon.  And we love what we chose, but it doesn’t seat a dozen.  So we rearranged the living room, hauled the kitchen table a
round the front hall, and set it on end with the dining table, overflowing into the living room.  I know we’re not the only ones who go through this each year.  And we avoided segregating anyone to a separate “kid’s table”.

I carved and plattered the turkey in the kitchen – mine never looks like the Martha Stewart video, and I’ve decided that next year I’ll try to emulate Alton Brown instead.  Still, the disassembled bird looked appealing on the platter.  We dined on my grandma’s Fiesta Ware,  spooning and slicing with my other grandma’s silver.  Both gone for years, but still treasured and cherished and remembered each time we drag out the feast ware.  We gathered round, began passing platters and bowls, and, well, you know the rest.  Here’s the recap:

  • I don’t get fancy with the bird – buy turkey gets some aromatics stuffed in the cavity, a bit of butter under the skin, and a good shake of salt.  This year I also oven-braised a whole breast, as white meat seems to go fast.  Good decision. All that was left was a drumstick and half a breast I hadn’t carved.  Good thing – I wouldn’t want to be around me if I’d been denied my day-after turkey sandwich.
  • Fancy green salad with goat cheese, provided by a guest.  Perfect.
  • Mashed potatoes are a non-negotiable part of our Thanksgiving.  Made ahead with tons of butter, some milk and a bit of sour cream, always a few lumps to be found.  They evade me until serving time and IMG_0333then reappear as if by magic. Potatoes waited, warm and ready, in a crockpot.  When it came time to pack up leftovers, I had to sneak in and grab some, else husband would have wanted me to make another whole batch.  So, yes, the mashies went over well.
  • Fruit salad, provided by one of our guests.  I so appreciate this, as I can eat something reasonably healthy and she’s the one who spent all that time cutting up fruit and seeding a pomegranate.
  • Gravy.  Of course, and lots of it.  Costco sells the most amazing turkey gravy.  But not for us – I insist on making mine from scratch.  Helps prevent me from cutting into the bird too soon, since I possess insufficient self-control to wait that thirty minutes.  All good in the end, because who doesn’t love gravy?  My gravy is different every year, as I never use a recipe.  This year, my gravy was thin, but delicious.
  • Sweet potato soufflé… for some of our guests, it isn’t a feast without sweet potatoes, so I succumbed.  I knew what I wanted to make, but I couldn’t find a recipe, so I came up with my own, Gabrielle’s Sweet Potato Soufflé.   This dish was well-received by sweet potato lovers and largely ignored by everyone else.  I thought it was delicious, which is good, since we’ve still got some in the fridge.
  • Green beans, Christina’s way.  A nod to daughter, who couldn’t be with us.  Her favorite, and nothing close to the creamy, french onion covered standard.  Lightly steamed fresh greenies seasoned with toasted garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and a dash of salt.  Delicious!  However, this dish must be made at the very last minute and doesn’t hold well for second helpings.  Too bad, we make them anyhow and can all feel virtuous for the green veggies we’ve consumed.

Accompanied By…

All in the details, folks.  Our table was long, so our table sported two each gravy boats, butter dishes and S&P.   Guests appreciated speedier access and the table suffered less reach-across-the-table spills.  Some standards grace our table by tradition, some new tastes for adventure:

  • Breads – homemade sourdough and ancient multigrain breads, plus the mandatory biscuits from a can.  Guess which disappeared?  Next year, carbs from a can.
  • Olives from Spain, sweet hot mini red peppers, pickles, real butter… The nibbles weren’t necessary.  And one guest asked for margarine.
  • Cranberry sauce, of course.  By tradition, we must serve the kind from a can – and it must be served intact, so the shape of the can is clearly evident.  Enjoyed by many, every single year.
  • Fresh cranberry-orange relish, for those of us who want to see identifiable cranberries in a cranberry condiment.  I could eat this stuff with a spoon and apparently some of our guests did.  Nice to see an experimental addition go over well.   If you want to give it a try, you can find my recipe here Gabrielle’s Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!
We took a break before dessert…

Sweet Finish

We wandered away from the table, cleaned up a bit, chatted, loved on the dogs,and yelled at a little football.  Once we’d adequately recovered from our tryptophan coma,it was time to work on maximizing our carb consumption.  Pretty much all the dessert was provided by our guests.  No extra days baking for me – I am so going to do it this way again next year!  And every single one of us had at least a little.  Who says you can’t have a dessert or two, just once a year?

  • One of our guests makes the best pumpkin pie, and we had it with whipped cream, ice cream, or both.  Strange, this year there were no takers for both.  We must be growing up or something.
  • Warm-from-the-oven brownies.  Yum.
  • Cheesecake.  From the kitchens of Sara Lee, who really got cheesecake right.
  • Broncos cupcakes.  Sadly, I don’t think they’re going to help our team come back from too many injuries this season.  Still, tasty and easy to add to the plate next to those other choices.
  • Coffee, decaf, black tea, herb tea, hot chocolate.  Thank heavens for my Keurig.

A bit more lounging and visiting, some picking up, getting the dogs back inside… our feast was coming to an end.  I deposited  take away boxes on the counter and instructed everyone to have at it.  That started a frenzy of activity.  Made certain that all the dessert items were destined for a different home.  Dave made a quick run out with shovel and salt to ensure safe passage to vehicles, and our friends headed for home.

Of course, Thanksgiving is not just about feasting.

Thanksgiving at our house ended on the couch with a cuppa.  We caught the end of the Macy’s parade we’d saved just in case, the quiet rumble of the dishwasher in the background, while outside, snow continued to float down.  Just like a Norman Rockwell, inside and out.

Feasting with friends is just one of so many things to be thankful for.  Hoping you’re Day of Thanks was as enjoyable as ours.

This Day

This Day

Each day, my calendar pops up a bunch of reminder notifications – and amongst all the appointments and actual things I need to know, there are always a few “tomorrow is national something or other day”.  I decided to explore today, October 15th.  Wow.


Today is National White Cane Safety Day

Did you know that The National Federation of the Blind supplies a white cane free of charge to anyone in the United States who is significantly visually impaired?  This day was first proclaimed in 1964 by President Lyndon B Johnson at the urging of the National Federation for the Blind.

2015 1015 white cane safety day“The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person’s ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways. To make our people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it Congress, by a joint resolution approved as of October 6, 1964, has authorized the President to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day.

Now, therefore, I, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America do hereby proclaim October 15, 1964 as White Cane Safety Day.”

There is some real history here.  Back in 1930, the first state law regarding the right of blind people to travel independently with white canes was passed.   Back then, few knew that a white cane signified independent mobility for the blind.  Back in the 1978, a young woman testified before congress that she regularly encountered folks who had no clue of the significance and purpose of her white cane.   These days, we are generally more aware of individuals with disabilities, and now every state has a White Cane Law.

According to the National Federation of the Blind, White Cane Safety Day is intended to make everyone aware of the significance of a white cane and to encourage people, especially motorists, to take extra care when they see someone with a white cane. It has also become a day on which the achievements of the blind and visually impaired are celebrated and offers the chance to educate and raise awareness of the blind and visually impaired.

Since we pretty much all know what a white cane means, these days, I’d say they’ve don a good job of it.


Today is National Chicken Cacciatore Day

2015 1015 national chicken cacciatore dayThis one makes me smile. I love Italian food.  Cacciatore means “hunter” – and this dish finds its origins way back in the 15th century or so.  Back then, the hunters would head out for days at a time tracking big game.  They’d make a tasty, fill
ing stew out of smaller prey they’d picked off on the way, cooked in a pot over a fire. These days, we like chicken in a tomato-based sauce, but in the 15th century, more likely there would be a rabbit or such in the pot, some parsley or oregano for interest, and no tomatoes.
These days we consider tomatoes an integral part of Italian cuisine, but in the 1400s, tomatoes had not yet made it across the ocean from the New World.

Here’s a pretty simple Chicken Cacciatore Recipe, enough to serve two for a lovely romantic dinner:

  • 1-1/2 pounds of chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, washed, seeded, and sliced thinly
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup nice dry red wine, Chianti is good
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled and chopped plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry flat leaf parsley (or 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped)

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Place the chicken pieces in the pan and brown on both sides, remove and set aside. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat out of the frying pan, and then add the  onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook until the onions are translucent, and the mushrooms have become limp.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook a minute or so longer. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, and then add the tomatoes. Add black pepper, parsley and oregano.  Simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes , and then put the chicken pieces on top of the tomatoes and onions, skin side up. Lower the heat and cover the frying pan with its lid slightly ajar so some of the steam can get out. Simmer for about half an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through.   Serve with a nice salad, good crusty bread for soaking up the juices, and the rest of that Chianti.


Today is National Grouch Day

oscar the grouch scramNational Grouch Day was first mentioned in Sesame Street Magazine years ago.  I suspect Childrens’ Television Workshop, who produced Sesame Street, had something to do with it.

My dictionary defines a grouch as a person who complains frequently or constantly; a habitual irritable or complaining person.  Know anyone like that?  Well, don’t we all.  Today is the day that the rest of us can sit back and put a little of our own Grouch on.   And, of course you knew this – National Grouch Day honors – who else – Oscar the Grouch.


Today is International Conflict Resolution Day

Yes, seriously, there is a Conflict Resolution Day.  Even better, there is also an actual Association for Conflict Resolution, who created this global event in 2005.  The purpose is to increase awareness of peaceful, non-violent methods of conflict resolution. such as mediation and arbitration.

The Association for Conflict Resolution and many independent organizations host informative events all over the world today.   I hope they invited lots of world leaders.


Today is Global Handwashing Day

I anticipate this one makes a bigger difference in daily lives than that conflict resolution one.  Global Handwashing Day was founded by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, andis endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, private companies, and schools throughout the world.  This day is designed t2015 1015 global handwashing dayo foster and support global and local cultures of hand washing with soap, highlight the state of hand washing around the world, and raise awareness about the benefits of regular suds-and-rub.

Tons of events, seminars, lessons, presentations and educational opportunities happen worldwide.   I know, Mr. Obvious-Man, but there are places in our world that don’t have the resources and knowledge available to us.

And, you know what else I discovered?  My 40-second web search showed that many graduate students have and continue to do research on the value of washing your hands to help prevent the spread of disease. Your mother was right!


lucy meta-vita-vega-minToday is National I Love Lucy Day

Know what?  I Love Lucy debuted on October 15, 1951.  Of course, I only ever watched it in reruns.  At one point, Lucy was the most syndicated human being on the planet.  Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, that is, DesiLu Productions, were genius trendsetters.  They were the first scripted tv show to be shot live on 35mm film in front of an audience.  The won five Emmy Awards and 40 million people still watch the reruns each year.  Wow.  Though born nearly half a century later, our daughter is well aware of I Love Lucy and can readily quote the most important lines and plots.  Chocolate Factory?  Vitameatavegamin? The hair?  The facial expressions?  The wail?  Yup, she knows them all.  We brought her up right, you see.



Today is National Cheese Curd Day

cheese curds againBest and most shameless for last.  So, today is the very first annual National Cheese Curd Day, to my knowledge.  Founded by Culver’s, who insisted that Cheese Curds deserve their own day, just like hamburgers and chocolate.

You know Culver’s – a fast food restaurant, based out of Wisconsin.  They happen to have deep-fried cheese curds on their menu.How, regardless of origin, I’m good with this one.  I love cheese curds.  I have yet to find a cheese curd I didn’t relish.  Culver’s serves theirs deep-fried with marinara or ranch.  Or I can stay truer to my usual lifestyle and pick up some raw-milk curds, squeaky fresh, from the farmer’s market.  All good, either way and anything in between.

We are talking cheese here, after all.



Well, that’s it for today.  Not so sure about tomorrow, folks.  What do you think?