Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My New Go-to Recipe Source.....Facebook!

If you want your house in total disarray, then pack to move. I promise, in over the several week span that it takes to get your house from "under contract", to the settlement table, you will lose all control over where anything is!

A second promise is that almost anything you are looking for is packed in a box, double-taped, with the word "fragile" on it. And here's the problem, the first thing to get lost in your enthusiasm to move forward is the fact that you STILL HAVE TO LIVE in the house till settlement.

Which brings me the chore of fixing dinner...or lunch...or breakfast, or anything the requires a utensil, a pot or a plate. With half of my cookware packed in storage, it soon became apparent that somehow, the half I kept was never the stuff I used anyway.

Don't ask me how this happened. It seems that seconds after the real estate agent called with an offer of sale, I completely lost my head and started packing my underwear. Seriously, I screwed this packing thing up totally. I actually had to buy a pot, and by God, everything I cook has to fit in it. If it doesn't, I reach for the menu cabinet and my cell phone. 

Which brings me to Facebook. Recently, I have seen some amazing recipes posted mostly by working woman who have little time, and are too tired to take great efforts while still wanting to make great meals for their families.

Such was the case this past Sunday. A rainy, dark day that called for something good to be cooking on the stove. After pouring my morning coffee, I went online to see what my family members and friends were up to. My niece Aimee', had this to share from someone named Kelly Spears who apparently creates and post healthy dishes.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls 

Ingredients:1 1/2 to 2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small cabbage, chopped
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt


In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground beef and onion and cook, stirring, until ground beef is no longer pink and onion is tender.
Add the garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute.

Add the chopped cabbage, tomatoes, tomato sauce, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until cabbage is tender.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8. 

Wow! How easy is this? Where is my pot? Okay, as usual the first thing I did was to "tweak" the ingredients to things I, well, for lack of a better term, prefer. I substituted ground chicken for the beef. And another habit I picked up is that when a recipe calls for two cans of chopped tomatoes, I make one of the cans stewed tomatoes. The sweet and savory mix works magic every time. Also, I replaced the 1/2 cup of water with a 1/2 cup of chicken broth to kick the flavor up a notch. 

It was wonderful! The aroma in the kitchen and the steam on the rainy windows made this recipe and instant favorite. A loaf of Italian bread and a salad was the perfect accompaniment.

Easy, easy, easy! And on Facebook of all places. Kelly hit the ball out of the park with this quick and easy creation. She even encouraged everyone "To "SAVE" this recipe, be sure to click "SHARE" so it will store on your personal page. It is not always easy to remember where you saw a recipe weeks later." So true. I'm so glad my niece had the notion to "share" it with all of us! I must print this and put it in my recipe folder...now what box is that in?

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Signature of one...

(Note: "Signature of one" was published this week on the exceptional heart-tugging blog "Amid Life",by Jessica Gordon Ryan, where I first wrote about my divorce anonymously. Thank you Jessica for giving me the courage I needed to sign my name!)

I bought a house recently. This is not an uncommon occurrence, happens hundreds of times a day. And I’m sure that everyone feels what I felt along the way, the angst, the nervousness, the anxiety, and the full blown excitement that comes with making such an expensive investment. It is a venture that is more often than not shared by two people. And up until last October, I would have been the other half of that couple browsing through the homes of others, mentally decorating while discussing the possibilities of converting it into a home of our own. But that scenario is no longer.

Those of you who read Jessica’s wonderful “Amid Life” blog with regularity, may remember a painful post by an anonymous author early last winter titled “Falling Out of the Sky” which told of the sudden collapse of a 40 year marriage. It regaled how a lovely, romantic fall weekend, at a seaside resort in Maryland, ended with the husband putting his luggage in the guest room…and then, without warning, asked for a divorce.
I am the writer of that blog. I am the woman whose heart was broken and blindsided, shattered and shredded.

After re-reading that post recently, I almost didn’t recognize the woman who cried and vomited her way through the Christmas holidays and into the New Year. A rather pathetic mess who somehow managed to hide the implosion within from all but those closest to her…to me. I’m not that woman anymore.
And now…I bought a house. And in between the demolition and reconstruction of my life, was a turning point that sticks with me still. In early January, one of our many horrid arguments occurred that ended with him storming out and me crumbled on the floor heaving sobs. Over the course of our marriage, real arguments were rare and learning to adapt to them now was hard. Looking back on it, I wasn’t even in a comfortable position, half kneeling, half twisted with my face on the carpet. I may have been there for hours. And then…I whispered the 17 words that I believe changed my life. “Lord, if you get me off this floor and standing, I promise to stay on my feet.”

For a long time, I felt as if my wet face was stuck to the rug. The oppression and exhaustion of it all was too much. I actually started to nod off when there was a knock at the door. There was no way I was going to get up and answer it. If it was my sister or a friend checking on me, I didn’t want them to see me like this. I felt and looked like a car wreck. I was ignoring it when the knock turned into a pounding. I picked my head up and saw red flashing lights washing the walls. “Oh my God”, I thought, “Something is really wrong. Where are my sons? I can’t take this!!!”

I leaped off of the floor and ran to open the door. The flashing lights and the pounding getting stronger along the way. The police must be parked in my driveway! I took a deep breath and braced for the worst as I swung open the door and… no one was there. No flashing lights. No police with dreaded news. No one. Only the soft rain from a gray January sky was there to meet me. What the hell? What was that all about I muttered walking away. And it was then that I realized I was standing. I was on my feet. And I “promise to stay on my feet”.

And so, now seven months later…I bought a house. Not going to lie, over the last several months there were absolutely times when the soft carpet in the living room called to me. Beckoned for me to compromise my resolve and indulge in some self-pity. But no way in hell was I going to allow anyone to reduce me to a sobbing heap on the floor again. I’m keeping my promise. Feeling strong and downright excited about my new “me” life.

But I must admit something. Filling out the mortgage application for my new place was a reality slap that I hadn't anticipated. At the bottom of each page, there were four signature lines.  On the right were the two names of the lovely older couple that I was buying from. On the left, were two signature lines where there only needed to be one this time. With each page, the empty line glared at me. By page three, I actually shifted the position of my hand so my palm was not resting on the line when scribbling my signature. For the first time in over 40 years, I was not depending on that empty line to make this happen. I did not need that line to consult with, to compromise with, or defer too. My sole signature alone was my personal Declaration of Independence. I asked the mortgage broker for some White-Out. That line simply wasn’t needed.

So…I bought a house. I will decorate it. I will paint it the colors of my choice. I will organize it. I will cook in it. I will prepare Thanksgiving dinner and spend a December Saturday baking Christmas cookies in it. I will thrive in it. But most importantly - for my boys and their families, for my family and friends, I will make it a home.

I can do this because a source much stronger than me steadied a soul in crises. And because more love than I realized I had, was heaped on me by family and friends. I can do it all now because I’m ready. And, because with a singular signature…I bought a house.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Backyard Garden Treasures...And Tomato Corn Salad!

I left a little dirt on so you could appreciate the freshness!
Yesterday, a mere week after the 4th of July, I picked the first tomatoes from my garden. An unusual amount of rain in June (and now July), has caused everything to ripen fast! Filling my basket with plump, deep red tomatoes and dark green bell peppers, transported me back to a time last summer when my sister Betty and I gathered in my niece Beth's Florida kitchen searching the internet for I recipe I had seen prepared by the Neelys' on The Food Network only weeks before.

When first watching it, my interest was peaked by two things; the mixture of fresh tomatoes and grilled corn, and my favorite, absolute favorite salad dressing of fresh lemons and extra virgin olive oil! I have been making this dressing since I was a very young girl at the apron strings of my grandmother who always used lemons in her salad dressing. Way before the health benefits of using olive oil was touted, she knew that using lemons with this pungent oil, in place of vinegar, would give an amazing freshness to any salad.

And since for me, so many tomatoes are ripe at one time, I plan on going to the farm market later for some fresh Jersey corn. And as three salad loving women did in Florida last summer, I will add a bowl of cold seasoned shrimp and call it a great summer meal! Try it!

6 ears fresh corn, husked with silks removed
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 cups packed arugula

Lemon Dressing:
1 lemon, juiced
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat grill or broiler to medium heat. Rub corn with 2 tablespoons of canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill or broil corn for 7 minutes or until ears are lightly browned. Remove from grill and allow to cool. Remove the kernels from the cob and place in a large mixing bowl along with the cherry tomatoes, red pepper, scallions, and arugula. In a small bowl, prepare dressing by whisking together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper. Mix together and (very important) serve at room temperature! Grilling the corn makes it super sweet! And along with just picked tomatoes, this recipe has become an absolute summer favorite

Another quick tomato salad favorite:

In an effort to save money and calories, I have taken to packing my lunch for the office. But instead of chips, along with a sandwich on whole wheat bread, I chop a tomato into a small container, slice up one large green olive, add a pinch of crumbled goat cheese, and drizzle with oil olive, salt and pepper. By lunch time, the small addition of salt pulls the juice from the tomato and marinates the olive and goat cheese. It is amazing and so much healthier than half a bag of potato chips!

Everyone has their favorite summer tomato salad recipe. So take a minute and send me yours! I am waiting and willing to try almost anything!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Confetti's on the Floor....Leftover Wedding Stuff!

Kathleen and Mom getting down!
With "The Groom's Side" blog now history, I thought I'd take some license, so to speak, in allowing Kitchen Clatter to sweep up after the reception and see what remnants might have been left behind! The dust pan is full, so before I discard, let's sift through the rubble!

Going through previous blogs, I realized that there were more than a few comments made about working out, losing weight, finding a dress, etc. Also, "The Groom's Side" blog had a couple thousand faithful readers each time it posted, but
only about 100 of them were actually at the wedding. Thus, I received some emails over the weekend complaining about not wrapping things accordingly. So here goes:

1. For Jillian in Georgia who asked about the results of my gym visits -I started working out in early fall, and by Christmas had lost 42 pounds. Problem was, I started suffering from severe back spasms and was diagnosed with "spinal stenosis", sounds worse than it is, but it's a narrowing of the spinal cord that occasionally acts up! Mine was in a full blown melt down. So, I stopped "working out" and was reduced to taking long walks after dinner. Gained 7 pounds back but still ahead of the game.

Trevor and me
2. The dress...okay, for those not in attendance (and you people did get a little testy over this), here it is. Wasn't something I would have picked off the rack, but once on, it worked. And before anyone writes again, yes I managed to get the Spanx on without hurting myself, but the "Concealer", (which I'm pretty sure use to be called a "corset") that Marie at the dress shop sold me, was a task! Trying to put in on by myself was a nightmare.

 I thought if I fastened it in the front and then spun it around, I'd be okay. Instead, I almost screwed myself into the hotel carpet. Thank God my sister's room was not far away. I'm pretty sure when she first answered her cell, I must of sounded like I was speaking in tongues. Fortunately, she understood enough to get over right away. Also for Penita in Cancun, as you can see - the groom wore a nice gray tux, not a Hawaiian shirt and headdress as he threatened.

3. And for Emma in Ireland, Rose in London, Angel in California - The rehearsal dinner! Yes, talked about this "one known responsibility" on several blogs and I am hear to say it could not have gone better! By smartly blogging about Baia's Bayside Restaurant coming to our rescue, they received more than a few reservations and in return, the manager moved us from a private room to a private outdoor deck, and then added a great musician (at no additional cost) for good measure. It was perfect. A full moon (a once-in-300-years Super Moon actually), glided on the bay as we ate and drank, laughed and danced. It was an "amazing night" as my son, the beaming groom kept saying.

Cousins's Pool Time!
Rehearsal Dinner
A couple other items of note. While I was so looking forward to all of my out of state family coming home for a rare visit in unison. I kept imagining everyone dancing, laughing and having a good time at the reception. What I didn't think about was how much fun our "reunion" was going to be at the hotel!

Poolside was a hot bed of activity as cousins who'd never met, played in the water as if they were life-long buddies, and others with years between visits, gathered, sharing memories, and hometown favorites like Italian hoagies. (For distant readers, this is a Philly area favorite sandwich with cold cuts, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and hot peppers on a roll.) This gathering, along with all of my friends, in one place, at one time, was pure unanticipated joy! I am grateful to everyone who made the trip!

Allow me to also send appreciation to the brides's Mom, Jean, and bridesmaids, Jeanne, Laura, Emily, Mimi, Caroline, Ashley...and of course my beautiful new daughter in-law, Kathleen, who made me feel like one of the gang all weekend long! And a special shout out to Emily who got down on her knees and helped me put heels on for the first time in....well, forever. She watched me steady my legs as if I was a newborn colt standing for the first time. It wasn't pretty, but she smiled anyway "you look great"! Yeah right, but thanks Em!

And to the groomsmen, Kyle (one of mine), John, Brooks, Bobby, Albert, Amon, and Walt, most of who ended up calling me "mom" by the end of the weekend , you guys were the best! Until now, I didn't know anyone could consume that much alcohol and stay upright! You've enlightened me! (I also didn't know that one man could be so attached to his hair products...um, Walt.)

Why didn't the girls seem as anxious to climb on wet, slippery rocks as the guys!

Okay, think I've answered most of the questions that were left lingering. I love that people followed "The Groom's Side" with such anticipation that they remembered parts of blogs that were written last fall and had the curiosity to email me with questions! Speaking of curiosity, the picture below is one of my favorite remnants from that fabulous weekend. It's two cousins who had never met before the wedding, forming a bond while checking out the sea water coming through the rocks. May we all keep the wonder of the small things in our lives.

My nephews Drew and Keegan!
Next up? "Kitchen Clatter" is in "full throttle ahead" mode. First, my house is under contract and I will be moving on as a single woman for the first time in my life! Join me for the excitement and stories of starting over again! There is so much to do! Also, I will soon be sharing some very exciting news about this coming  fall. And... I will be on a search for recipes that fit my new lifestyle!  Also for recipes that will keep my family coming to a new kitchen table. I'll admit, I'm a little nervous, just so glad to have you all along for the ride. Let's go!