Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kudos to Denny's!

My usual nightly routine is having the news on in the kitchen while preparing dinner...last night I overheard Katie Couric talking about Denny's Food Chain and the national campaign they promoted during a super bowl spot this year... free breakfast today! With the constant stream on the poor economy and depressing news...it was nice to hear and made me stop and follow the spot. They had lines out the door...and they were giving their "Grand Slam" breakfast... "the big one"...
Denny's, which is caught in the same decline as the rest of the casual dining industry, is on a mission to revive the sit-down breakfast. The Grand Slam breakfasts are its best-selling item, with about 12.5 million served each year. Of course the follow up had to have that sarcastic "American Spin"....
'Ah the free publicity this story generated for Denny's has to number in the billions. They could not have paid for this press coverage" ... yadda, yadda, yadda.
Hey, a "free meal is a free meal" and in today's economy those that endured the wait were very appreciative... let's just leave it at that... the fact that so many received a free breakfast and were grateful!
We're not a big Denny's family, probably because I don't even know where the closest one is located...but on a few occasions we've had breakfast at a Denny's when away...either way....Kudos to Denny's, it's nice to see a restaurant that is in the same economic slump do something significant, if only for a day!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cell Phone Ettiquette....

I'm sure you've all heard the expression "use your inside voice"... I must have said it repeatedly to my son during the "grooming years"... you know... that short span when you TRY and lay the foundation of what is acceptable behavior and what is just NOT acceptable... I'm sure much of it went to a "deaf" ear.. even so, in my heart I pray some of it was absorbed. This has little to do with that (that's a blog onto itself).. this has to do with ADULTS talking on their cell phones....
I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR THEM... hearing one side of a trivial conversation is just not appropriate... especially when you are STUCK and can't escape it.... like... on a deli line... when you have to endure 14 people in front of you...or worse yet... when you are TRYING to zone out and relax during a pedicure and you are stuck listening to someone rambling next to you.... it's just GOD AWFUL! I've done the "brief stare"... and given "the look" ... "it's enough already"... do people really think we want to hear them? Do they think they are all that important?
1.VERY BASIC... use your inside voice... you do not have to go up a few decibels when on a cell phone... unless you're standing on the runway of an airport... please, please do not scream!
2. Take it OUTSIDE... no one wants to hear you.... excuse yourself and talk privately!
3. It's OK to say, I'm not in an inappropriate place to talk... "I'll call you back"... or better yet, unless it's an emergency... don't answer!
4. Remember, NO ONE wants to hear you... you're just NOT THAT IMPORTANT...sorry, but hearing a one way conversation is rude, obnoxious and plain and simply annoying... be considerate to others.
5. Stay in your zone... you look like a "zombie" pushing a cart in the grocery store and half engaged in a cell phone conversation!
I won't even go into talking while driving... I'm the worlds biggest offender... I've paid my share of fines, but I'm alone and actually budget my time to allow phone calls while in the car ... but I'm NOT bothering anyone...and with my blue tooth and other ear devices, I'm also legal.
I think this is basic manners 101... if someone is trapped and can't escape your phone call... be considerate...and if you are in a situation to either call back, or take the call outside....please, please remember it's very much appreciated! I'm Curious...am I out on a limb feeling this way?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fairway "Like No Other Market"!

I just came back from the new Fairway in Paramus, NJ....so did the entire County of Bergen! How I endured to keep going and not leave my cart, I'll never know. It was killing me these past 4 days knowing it was officially opened and that I had not been there yet. You see, a speciality food store is my all time "haven"... similar to my husband spending the day in his favorite fly fishing stream. I get a high to walk into a produce department and see absolutely every single piece of vegetable or fruit stacked high, shiny and just so inviting. Not much compares to the beautiful colors of a beautifully laid out produce department (except maybe 100 grocery carts wedged in every which way). Around the corner was the deli, butcher, fish, cheese, departments, etc. - there was NOTHING you could not find! I'm reminding myself..."Susan, you and Phil can ONLY consume just so much"... It was laid out differently from the famous Upper West Side and Harlem Stores, but had the same abundance of selections and "feel to it".
I was impressed than many of the employees were from their NY Stores ...I heard many of them talking. This store knows how to do it right... Once inside though you are somewhat forced to "follow the forced layout"... heading back to something you forgot is like walking against a heard of elephants....
Anyway... it was a "Susan Playground"... I went alone, my son would have walked in and turned right around...Phil will love it, but I think we'll wait until the novelty of everyone in the state of NJ has already been there! My sisters and Mother would never "rush" to a food store, no matter what they are giving away or selling! If you love specialty grocery stores...I'd defiantly recommend it, as their motto's says "like no other market" ...just wait a few weeks!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What happened to Atlantic City?

Trump Taj Mahal... it does not get any tackier than this!

Slot Machines... Am I missing something???

Walking through The Tropicana in AC ... a sad sight. Of course you are "forced" to walk through the casino to get to the convention center, restaurants, sleeping rooms, etc. You can't help but notice the desperate people waiting and hoping to win it big.... Do you know how depressing it is to see someone in a wheelchair with oxygen and gambling at a slot machine? I also thought smoking was no longer allowed... maybe they have sections where you're allowed to smoke...but you can smell it the second you walk in the door! Am I missing something.... the people in the casino's don't look like they are having a good time to me...
I guess you are either a gambler or you're not... I have absolutely no interest in gambling 5 cents. For those that can afford to loose and consider it a rare occasion to visit a casino, good for them, seriously - I'm not judging anyone - but if I saw some enjoyment on the faces of the people sitting at the slot machines maybe I'd relate somehow!
The bigger picture is the sad and sorry sight of Atlantic City... very depressing, desolate, a few tall casinos stand out.. In 1976 I remember when gambling was passed in AC in an effort at revitalizing the city and make it a desirable place to visit...I don't think it worked! I also remember my grandmother telling me with such pride that she came to Atlantic City on her honeymoon and it was a very desirable place to vacation and the boardwalk and beaches were world famous....what happened?

Atlantic City in it's Prime!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Peace, Comfort and Dignity...Hospice.

Today, on my way home from school I stopped at a very dear friends to help her out... a simple request "can we borrow your jumper cables"... of course, good excuse to see her, etc.
I learned earlier in the week her dear elder mother who's been suffering from heart failure was back at her house after another stay at the hospital... this time they were having Hospice to help out.
Talk about unconditional love... talk about setting our priorities straight. I spent maybe 40 minutes with her mother while she went to start a car and do a quick errand. EVERYONE needs to spend 40 minutes with someone so sick...yet so sweet and in their final phase of life. Something we all avoid to address...our final phase of life. How blessed they both are to have each other and the means to allow her Mom to be comfortable in her home... hospital bed on the main floor of the house with all the standard gear of someone aging.
Her Mom's memory is not as sharp as it must have once been....but sharp enough to show sincere appreciation for what she has... a family that is willing to include her in their life and make sure she is well cared for, in a home. We're not all as fortunate to be able to supply that...but even those that are fortunate may not be willing to endure what it entails.
In 30 minutes I learned about all of her grandchildren, great grandchildren and how blessed she was to have such a wonderful son-in law. She knew she was blessed to be in a family setting and be able to look outside and see the beautiful blue sky and day light. She knew she was a burden and referred to it more than once. She wanted me to look at every photograph in the room and refer to them and ask her about them. She was sick...but not so sick she was not appreciative for what she had.
Life comes and goes in a full circle...we all experience it at one time or another... I'm grateful to have a mother currently in wonderful health...but I remember very well having grandmothers who were not in good health and visiting them and making sure visits to them were part of our lives.
The lesson... I don't really know... but I left with a heavy heart... somewhat happy to know the elder parent was in such a loving setting... but seeing the look and worry on my dear friends face... knowing it was in her hands... encouraging her to take advantage of people giving her a break... and hopefully her knowing that life is a full circle... we're just not always on top of the circle... a true testament to peace, comfort and dignity.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hoping I've learned my lesson!

This is not the first time this has happened to me... lost my "little" make up bag... a VERY expensive lesson. It's all of 6" x 4" and will cost me at least $175.00 if I replace everything... well, not even everything.
It's about the only thing I can't purchase at TJMaxx (which I gave up going to for lent...sort of). I'm one to hunt for a bargain...but I really am loyal to "department store" make up...usually a very expensive trip to Lord and Taylor, exiting with their tiny shopping bag from the Nars, Clinique, and Chanel counter... I've accepted it's gone...done everything to trace my steps - and the night I lost it, I never touched it while we were out! This time I've really learned my lesson ...I'm NOT taking it with me anymore! (except for a spare lipstick in my pocket)
What am I using before I bite the bullet and go to L&T... the scraps and ends of sticks and compacts from old stuff that I've learned.... don't throw out.

Take Time to Celebrate...

Today in Mass we celebrated a parishioner's 80th birthday... It was beautiful. I saw her when she entered church wearing a beautiful corsage, she was wearing it so proudly... and her family was all with her. Her grandchildren brought up the gifts to the altar, she was beaming. After Mass Father asked her to come to the altar and he sent her off with a beautiful blessing...
It reminded me of our celebration for my Mom's 80th last December, all Mom wanted was her immediate family and a small dinner. I hope I'm as healthy and able when I'm 80!
Ironically, today was our parish breakfast with our current 9th graders who are being confirmed celebrating Mass before breakfast, it was so nice to see them together, it was as if they were their own family as well.
Maybe spring fever is making me more nostalgic?
Happy Birthday Lucille and thanks for the memory of celebrating my mom's only a few months ago!

My Mom's 80th birthday celebration!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Give Blood...Play Rugby!

I'm the mother of a college rugby player....who was also a high school football player......
I remember thinking at my son's last football game in his senior year in high school...."good" this game is over... no more worrying.... not so.
The camaraderie and team spirit in Rugby compares to nothing...these boys are tight and watch out for each other like a true brotherhood ... they also party very HARD together... One of the things I have a strong admiration for is at the end of the match...the two teams are meant to "drink" together... no hard feelings, the game is over - time to celebrate!
College Rugby is a club sport...but the commitment from the players are no less than varsity....don't tell them it's "only" club... to them, it's their life. We love the fact that Gene likes to be on a team sport, he always has and it's his second family. It's a FAST game, usually 2 halves at 40 minutes each and the clock does not stop running... no protective gear and the rules are very different!
Tomorrow is SHU's opening spring game ... the primary season is in the fall...but every match is equally serious to them. I'll hope, as always, there is no blood... we've had our share of stitches and don't agree that a scare on the face is something to "sport" proudly!
Go Pirates!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Texting...it's how to communicate with our kids!

This just happened ... AGAIN. I called my son, no answer. I text him, immediate response! How infuriating...and what has me really crazy is I've learned to accept it! It's our most recent way to communicate - quick little questions and very quick answers like "k". Not even OK.... just "k"!
Take notice of how many kids are exercising their fingers and texting...all of the time. I work in a University and see students texting the second they are walking out of the classroom. I also tutor students and teach a night class and have students answering their texts... in front of me! They just CAN'T shut off their phone and give 100% of their attention. (and they THINK I don't notice) Most of the times if it happens only once, I let it slide...after that I ask them to SHUT IT OFF, NOT PUT ON VIBRATE and watch them wiggle that they know they have a message and can't concentrate!
My Mother is now texting...she wants to stay in touch with her grandchildren and has realized it's the best way... Mom is 80, I don't know many or any others in her category texting...but she found out what it takes to get a response. God forbid one of the kids write her a letter???
I too text a few of my friends (who respond)...but I prefer to hear a voice.
Anyway, I saw a statistic that the majority (76%) of adults ages 45-60 who are texting are sending messages to their children!
So...bottom line is I guess we've all accepted it... but I'm not lovin it!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hunting for "The Best Stuff on Earth"

I hate cronic complainers...and rarely do I want to complain...but lately I'm totally obsessing over not being able to find my favorite Snapple... I ONLY like one flavor - Diet Iced Tea and Lemonade (together)! Everyone who tastes it, or I share it with seems to LOVE IT TOO! Snapple does NOT make it in one of those easy 12 packs...so you have to purchase it by single bottles....but thanks to the manager in Shop Rite, when they do have it on the shelf and the 12 pack is on sale, he'll let me purchase 12 loose bottles at the 12 pack sale price (now, please don't go and do this...or I'll NEVER get any). Honestly, I've found myself stopping at a grocery store and B-lining directly to the Snapple isle to hunt for this flavor... I've notified Snapple to see if they can provide more of it... (no response). I can consider myself a Snapple junkie...but only for this flavor. And when I do stock up on it...my son decides it's his favorite too - so he moves over all the Gatorade, G2, Propel, OJ and everything I purchase to make him happy!
Any solutions out there to easily find "the best stuff on earth"???

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bummer... I did not win!

Well... I wasn't that lucky to win the trip "I felt in my bones" that I won to Ireland today... The phone did not ring at 7:10 AM... by WOR, Radio 710 AM ... I can't believe I actually listen "faithfully" to this station! I grew up listening to it in our kitchen or car...and always complaining or "trying" to change the station...I can remember the programs quite vividly "Ralph Snodsmith", "Bernie Meltzer - What's your problem" And now, 2 generations later, it's still a "John Gambling" that I find myself driving with and listening to on my way to school. And honestly, I don't care for him all that much, I think I preferred his father... this John Gambling is way too conservative for me... but if you don't tune into public radio...that's about all there is (and it really bugs me)!!!
So... I filled out the on-line form for a free week in Ireland... I had the vision of how I was going to surprise Phil and we'd take Gene along on our own dime... Phil loved the fishing there and Gene, well any Irish pub will make a 20 year old Rugby Player happy! I guess I wasn't that lucky after all... but, that's OK... I'm grateful for what I have - a healthy family and employment!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Paddy's Day!!!

...to my Irish Family, (The Downeys, Cravins, Byrnes, etc.), Irish Friends and everyone else who is "Irish on Paddy's Day" ...
At least once a year I make corned beef and cabbage... but a few years ago I decided I was going to stop making it... my son "HATES" it and I don't want his memory of Paddy's Day having to smell and eat a meal he dislikes! So, I decided to make Salmon...a VERY Irish meal... Besides, corned beef...is totally an American Meal... you can't find it in Ireland! The spuds, cabbage and carrots, absolutely, in abundance - but it's cooked with boiled bacon (rashers)... and NOT a very popular meal and never a tradition on Paddy's Day! Here in America, March 17 is a day of beer-fueled insanity, filled with visions of shamrocks and leprechauns! In Ireland they start the day off in Church and celebrate Mass. Dublin's River Liffey is not tinted green, there is no green stripe painted down any street in Dublin and you'll need more thant "the luck of the Irish" to find green bagels! Pubs in Ireland only started staying open around 1979, primarily for the tourists who wanted to celebrate!

The first Paddy's Day Parade in America was held in Boston in the 1700, starting a tradition through out many parts of the country...none bigger than in NYC. I have a theory...beware of holidays when "non drinkers decided to drink"... both New Year's Eve and Paddy's Day are prime examples!

On a lighter side - St. Patrick's Day is just part of the fun of finding your Irish heart and soul - even if you're not Irish. It's fun to embrace the Irish music and culture. It's a "feel good holiday"... so even if corned beef and cabbage is not traditional "Irish Fare"... it's good to eat and be part of the spirit! AND...I broke down and cooked a corned beef and cabbage this past weekend, along with many loaves of Irish Soda Bread and Irish Whiskey Cake... I could not help myself!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I just came back from dropping my son off at school, he was home last week for spring break. It was so nice to have him around. Why do I still get that melancholy feeling when I take him back to his dorm and say good-bye? I think it was expected the first time we took him Freshman Year... it took me a while to "shake it" then. Now' he's a Sophomore - and I still hate to say good bye! I myself, was not one to ever like dorm life, in fact, I hated it. Living in a building (dorm) was just a very un-natural feeling for me - I tried it twice, living in the heart of Boston, and thinking I missed the "country dorm scene" then transferring to a beautiful campus in PA... and hating that too... to FINALLY asking if I could move home, have a car and commute... that's when I was happiest! Our son has adjusted without skipping a beat...he loves it and ultimately, that's what we want, our kids to be thriving, happy, and comfortable in their own skin! My two sisters both went to the same college for 4 years and loved the entire experience, I get the "willies" just thinking about living in a dorm! In two months I'll be dreading the "home for the summer", not because of my son being back, but because of all of his STUFF that comes with him....but, that too will pass. My husband knows I hate when we drop him off and say good bye, so he's being extra sensitive and knows in a day that I'll shake it... maybe it's the "mother in me"... I sense my own Mom hates when any of us say bye to her after a visit... maybe that's just the way it is... OH...did I mention I work at the same University he's at? Guess what...it does not matter, it's still missing him at home...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Soda Bread or Brown Bread???

About this time of year.... every store bakery has loaves of Irish Soda Bread. It's delicious...especially when just out of the oven! Having been to Ireland many times, I've yet to have a piece of Irish Soda Bread while in Ireland! (the closest is a scone) Ask most Irish and they all have a favorite recipe for their famous "Brown Bread". Hearty, dense, rich and delicious! Traveling through Ireland many stay in B & B's and they are all known for their traditional Irish Breakfast, or commonly called "Irish Fry", which I've seen many locals eat for many other meals as well! An Irish Fry typically consists of: bacon (rashers), sausage (bangers), eggs, grilled tomato, black or white pudding, brown bread with jam and a pot of tea. It's frequently kicked off with a bowl of corn flakes. Can you believe, no potatoes??? I wanted to share a recipe that was converted from metric to American Standard... Thank you Gillian! Gillian's Mom, Ann Walsh (who is still very dear to my heart) passed away a few years ago, this was her famous recipe that came from her very good friend Mary Kavanaugh...

Mary K's Brown Bread:

In a large bowl put: 12 oz's Wholemeal Flour (1 3/4 cups)4 oz's Pinhead Oats (porridge or oatmeal) (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) A fistfull of bran Then Sieve in:4 oz's Flour (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) 2 Teaspoons of salt2 Teaspoons of Bread Soda Mix all dry ingredients Then add:1 Pint of Buttermilk Mix Pour into a greased tin and bake for 1 hour at 400'F.
Delicious! More on Paddy's Day to come!

Girl Scout Cookies...it's that time of the year!

It's March...that time of the year when all the Girl Scout cookies you ordered are being delivered. How can anyone say NO to a Girl Scout when asked to purchase cookies? We all have our favorites... I try to NOT order my favorites, just so they are not in the house. Mention a "thin mint" and everyone knows what you are talking about... have you ever kept a box of Girl Scout thin mint cookies in the freezer? So delicious! They seem to be delivered at the worst time though...spring is around the corner and everyone seems very conscious about their diet - and then your door bell rings and your cookies are being delivered. Sadly though, with everyone aware of horrifying stories, Girl Scouts no longer seem to be ringing your doorbell to purchase cookies! Between my husband and myself from friends who call or people we work with, we always seem to have an abundance of these tempting little sweets around the house - all to be re-disbursed to someone else, now our son who's at college and these are "perfect" dorm treats!
Girl Scout cookies started in 1917, at that time they cost .23 cents a box or 6 boxes for $1.24! Oh well, they are not the only thing that have increased in price! Girl Scout Cookies are an icon of American culture and the backbone of the Girl Scouts, all of the proceeds support Girl Scouts of America in your community. How can anyone say no to that?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy 50th Birthday Barbie!

Can you believe Barbie is 50 this week? Has any other doll stirred such insane controversy? OK...she has an ultra-slim figure that does represent a ridiculous standard for body shape... yes, it's quite difficult to measure up to her standards... But let's remember, she is a doll, a toy! Let's meet Barbie, she's 36, successful, single woman who owns her own Dream Home and drives a convertible Corvette. She loves children and animals. Many of her earlier versions emulated great role models as Nurse Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, Doctor Barbie and even Nascar Barbie.
What does bother me is she is a little "too pink"... the isle in the store is just a huge "cotton candy" pink-out! I had my share of Barbie's, my most favorite outfit was the wedding dress and all the accessories! In the 60's the accessories were very realistic from real looking telephones, food and the clothing were quality miniatures... today's versions are a little too sparkly and very fake plastic - maybe that's why she is appealing to a younger audience today.
So...let's wish Barbie a Happy Birthday...even is she is not your favorite doll, we all most likely had at least one and can relate to her... I have fond memories of my barbie doll case with the 2 drawers where we kept her accessories and little hangers we hung her clothes on... Would we rather little girls want to have a Brittney Spears doll???

Monday, March 9, 2009

Throwing a "Surprise" Party!!!

hmmmmm you NEVER REALLY know for sure...if the person is surprised.... it's the first thing people at the party all "buzzzzzzzzzzz about" Do you think she was REALLY surprised? "Oh, she was definitely surprised'! "I think she knew". There is only ONE person who knows if they are surprised...and that's the person who's party it is... (myself included)... Come on... are you going to spoil all the hard work that your family put into this party... just go ahead and "burst that bubble" of excitement - after all, this party is given in "your" honor...
Sunday night was a surprise party for my sister's 50th... honestly, I'm convinced she was totally surprised!
It was great...we were determined to do it "Sheila" style... so we found the PERFECT Irish bar, The Porter House, it was a room off of the bar with a few tables - they had live music with 5 or 6 players who were terrific... time to mingle, no formal sit down dinner - pub grub... open bar (of course)... and a GREAT party! Happy 50th Sheila!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

True Acts of Forgiveness...

Approximately 3 hours from metropolitan NY is Lancaster, PA, one of the many settlements of The Amish. Having visited there many times, I still find their simplistic lifestyle absolutely fascinating. I love learning about them and their private style, belief in God and their commitment to their communities that force them together while living in the heart of the pressures from the outside world. What stands out and I frequently reminisce about is their unequivocal act of forgiveness. The idea of forgiveness is the heart of the Amish culture and belief system. We all must remember the tragic shooting that occurred in Lancaster in October, 2006 when a gunman attacked a one-room school house and killed five girls (before committing suicide). The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location. After this massacre, donations to the community amounted to over 4 million dollars. The Amish community in the truest act of kindness and forgiveness donated a large amount of money to the wife of the murderer. Members of this community wanted to show forgiveness to the gunman.

In May, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot in the abdomen and hand in St. Peter's Square and seriously wounded. The pope spent 22 days in a hospital. Pole John Paul II went to the prison where his would-be assassin was, they talked for 20 minutes ~ the Pope forgave him for the shooting. At the end of the meeting, Agca (the gunman) pressed the Pope's hand to his forehead in a Muslim gesture of respect. It too was a startling drama of forgiveness and reconciliation; it was an intensely intimate transaction between two men. The Pope allowed this to be photographed, he wanted the image in that cell to be shown around a world. These are two remarkable acts of forgiveness that have stayed with me...the media attention made that possible, not all acts of forgiveness will gain this attention....not all acts of kindness are meant to. What meaning is more profound than to embrace and forgive.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Anything to avoid packing an overnight bag!

OK... it's not all that bad...but I will do just about ANYTHING to avoid packing a suitcase on a business trip... even to the extent of coming home at 10 PM, and getting back on the road at 6 AM... all to avoid packing a bag. Make no mistake...if it was a pleasure trip with my family...I'm FIRST out the door.
In my almost 30 years of professional life, I've done my share of traveling... and honestly, compared to many - not all that much. I used to (now I'm dating myself) fly the Eastern Airlines Shuttle back and forth to Boston like it was a commuter train.
What is it that I really don't like?
1. Plain and simple, having to think of what I'll wear and packing it!
2. Dealing with a hair dryer in a hotel - or worse, unpredictable showers and getting my hair wet!
3. Eating restaurant food...too much of it - getting out of my routine!
4. Just wishing I was home in my own bed (this is work...not a vacation)
5. Coming home to a "messy" house... I live with MEN... they don't see it...
SO... in our current economic climate...I'm very grateful to have a job...and one I like with people I love... but now I'm home in my PJ's... knowing I have to be back at the hotel at 7 AM... and so glad my overnight bag did not have to surface!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ina followed her dream...

Who would ever have thought that a woman working on nuclear energy policy with their MBA would be a food network star?? Ina Garten is a true inspiration and her determination to "follow her dream" paid off.... big time! Ina is another favorite of mine, her show "The Barefoot Contessa" is on the food network. I find myself mesmerized by her soothing voice and style. She makes everything so easy with her sharing techniques and incredible elegant and easy recipes. Her famous message when entertaining is to never serve more than 3 items at a meal... I'm always going to do that, and then at the last minute a panic takes over me and I find myself making way more than I need to... I'm determined to start to listen to her! This recipe, from "The Barefoot Contessa", is one of my all time favorites...if you know anything about me...you know my all time favorite food is "eggplant" - I love it cooked every and any way. It's funny, it's my mothers "least" favorite foods...one of the few things we don't share in common.

Eggplant Gratin Ingredients:
Good olive oil, for frying
3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good bottled marinara sauce
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
In each of 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.
Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm. I think I just may make it this weekend!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Giada De Laurentiis... one of my favorites!

If you know anything about me, you know I love the food network - I have my favorites and watch them as much as possible. My two all time favorite chefs are Giada De Laurentiis and Ina Garten. They use basic ingredients, and make delicious meals out of simple everyday and fresh food. I've never had a recipe go wrong with either of them. Giada was born in Rome, she is the granddaughter of the famous film producer Dino De Laurentis, he also had a restaurant where Giada spent a significant amount of time. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, but almost everything she makes has her "Italian" flair to it...she even has a recipe for Italian S'mores! She's been on the food network since 2002. I have most of her books but still find additional recipes on the food network website. I recently cooked this delicious and easy chicken meal...and I thought I'd share - I'll be sure to cook it again outside on the grill when it's "grill" weather!
Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce

For the balsamic vinegar sauce:

1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pieces chicken (any combination of breast or leg-and-thigh pieces)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the BBQ sauce:
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the chicken skin side up in a baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and spoon the BBQ sauce all over the top of the chicken. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. So easy, so delicious and a family favorite! (tip... use non stick aluminum foil to avoid a sticking disaster)! Giada's balsamic BBQ recipe above is also listed as a steak glaze.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March... "In like a lion....

Do you know the origin of the weather proverb about March, "in like a lion, out like a lamb"? For most locations, the average temperature at the end of the month is higher than at the beginning, so the proverb typically has some meteorological truth to it, but where did it come from?
The phrase apparently has its origins with the constellations Leo, the Lion, and Aries, the ram or lamb. It has to do with the relative positions of these constellations in the sky at the beginning and end of the month. For our family....we celebrate my niece's birthday...who is 17 today. She missed "leap year" by being born a few hours later... tomorrow is her driving test.... hopefully not canceled because of a blizzard... HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEET SARAH!
This is one of my FAVORITE pictures of Sarah around 5 years old!