Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Twist on an Old Favorite - BLT Macaroni Salad! (And bonus recipe too!)

A meal in itself!
It's finally Memorial Day weekend and I'm sure there is at least one day that will include a BBQ! With that in mind, I discovered a new twist on macaroni salad that became a huge hit at two gatherings. Easy to make (and you know I'm all about that!).

 In fact, you probably have most of the ingredients on hand now! So, this weekend, when you are attending a feast to celebrate the annual kick off to summer, surprise those that think they are dipping into that old boring bowl of macaroni salad. I did!

BLT Macaroni Salad
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked, drained and diced (thick slices work best)
  • 2 tbls of chopped green onions
  • 3 cups of chopped romaine lettuce
  • 3/4 cups of chopped tomatoes (make sure to seed the tomato first)
  • 3 tbls of sweet chili sauce
  • 3/4 cups of mayo (or a little more if you like your salad moist)
  • 2 tlbs of fresh lemon juice
  • 16 oz box of elbow,small shells or twist style of macaroni

While cooking the macaroni, mix together the wet ingredients for the dressing (mayo, chili sauce, lemon juice).
Cook pasta in salted water, then drain and let it cool slightly
Then add the chopped tomato, green onions and bacon
Pour dressing over the top and set in refrigerator
Important Note: Do not add the lettuce until you are ready to serve. This way it will stand up to the other ingredients (which is also why it is important to use a hearty romaine lettuce instead of iceberg)

That's it! Serve and enjoy the compliments!

Okay, while monitoring my blog hits, I noticed a huge increase on my old standard "Ice Box Cake", so if you are planning to add this great, easy, no bake dessert to your summer gatherings, here it is again (2,970 people have downloading this recipe. We can't all be wrong!)

Ice Box Cake
  • Half gallon of whole milk (low fat milk will not allow the pudding to set right)
  •  2 small boxes of “cooked” vanilla pudding (instant won’t work)
  •  2 small boxes of “cooked” chocolate pudding
  •  Box of plain graham crackers

Ironically, the hardest part of making this cake is finding the “cooked” version of pudding in the store these days. Instant doesn’t work because it won’t soften the layers of graham crackers into a cake-like texture the way hot pudding does. So when I find it, I buy several boxes. The other requirement is coordination. You have to cook both pudding flavors at the same time (which require almost constant stirring.) Spread a layer of the whole graham crackers in 13” x 9” dish, pour a layer of hot vanilla pudding over it, layer the top with more crackers, and then repeat the procedure using the chocolate pudding. Crush up the last of the crackers and sprinkle over top layer. Refrigerate till cold. There. How easy is that? 

Enjoy the weekend! But please, take a moment to remember why we are celebrating and those who gave their lives so we could live freely in this great country! It's still the best there is!

Photos by Jo Ann Phelps and GoggleImages

Friday, May 15, 2015

Don't Let Riverton's Little House "Pass You By"!

Tarp gone! New roof, new windows, new porch!
For years it was neglected. Collapsed roof, rotting floors, rusting pipes. Families living in homes nestled along the river, passed it on their way into town for an ice cream cone at Nellie Bly's, or a fresh pastry at the Orange Blossom Cafe. Sadly, without much thought. This decaying structure where spiders, mice and squirrels had claimed a homestead, just couldn't demand the attention of those passing by...until now.

505 Main Street is on its way back. Big time! Blue plastic tarp has been replaced by new rafters and roof. New windows and siding surround the exterior while the interior is undergoing a complete overhaul. Wide planked hardwood flooring has taken hold where old linoleum floors have been removed.

Kitchen hardwood floors covered by tarp as drywall goes up!
With a tentative early-June completion goal, there is much more to do. It's still a building with a mission, not a home yet. But thanks to the vision of the new owners, it is well on its way!

On a recent visit, I discovered how easy it was to step into the newly renovated concept and then take the next step into the past. One thing is for sure. If the kitchen is really the heart of a home, this soon to be gem will have a really big heart!

The kitchen will sit center stage with a large island and additional eating area! Stone countertops and stainless steel appliances will add to its upscale function. Overhead beams have been installed to support the newly added master bedroom, en suite and walk-in closet on the upper level, in the rear of the house. Behind the kitchen on the lower level will be a quest bathroom on one side and a laundry room on the other.

A new tub sits in preparation of a full second bath upstairs.
Researching the design of older homes, it seems that two things were kept in mind; construct houses with lots of rooms and doors. The purpose was to provide large families (in the 1800's the average family size was 7), the ability to acquire an area of "private" space. And also, since fireplaces were initially the main source of heat, doors of rooms not being used could be closed to provide more warmth to those in use.

But since we have scaled down the average family size to four or five, tops, along with the development of highly efficient HVAC systems, (the system here has been converted to gas with central air) open concept is the desire of today's home buyers! Contractor/owners  Mike Vogel, and Tom and Denise Kilroy, are keeping that in mind.

Through ingenuity and foresight, they have taken a two bedroom, one bath dwelling and turned it into a 2.5 bath, 3-bedroom unit which now also includes that aforementioned master suite and first floor accessed laundry room. They have utilized every inch of space in making this place appealing and relevant to the current real estate market. Listed through Betty Shepard of Berkshire Hathaway Realtors, preparations are underway to bring this house to market. "There has been so much interest in this house. So much interest in this historic town! It is exciting to watch the renovations," said Shepard.
Original floor and woodwork in living room will be stripped and stained. Beautiful!
Renovation might be putting it mildly. If it was applicable, metamorphosis, would better describe the changes being made here! The falling apart, wreck of a house, introduced to you over the winter, will soon be a show piece! And if the timing is right, if the moon and the stars align, a new family will be sitting on the new porch of this beautiful "new" home on the parade route, this Fourth of July! And in this small American town...that's a really big deal! And, as someone who didn't want life to pass by before realizing her dream, sang...

I’m gonna raise the roof
I’m gonna carry on,
Give me an old Trombone
Give me an old baton
Before the Parade passes by”
.....Dolly Levi

This once little house in Riverton, NJ is about to make someone's dreams come true! Don't let it pass by.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Mother's Day Tribute...To Aunt Louise

I don’t remember the moment I first realized how important she was to me. After all, I trusted her with two of the things I hold most dear in life-my sons. I don’t remember the exact moment she crossed from being the babysitter to being family. But it happened. And not just in the “oh, she’s just like family” vernacular. Oh no, she was family. We lived in adjoining townhouses, so proximity wasn't an issue and in 15 years, there wasn't a day, or at least part of one, that we weren't together. I guess you could say that Louise and I sort of adopted each other.

She had two grown sons who, for whatever reasons, weren't very active in her life (and that was definitely their loss). She didn't have a daughter, and I lost my mother when I was a young child. I had two babies 11 months apart, and was slightly overwhelmed with a husband working two jobs to keep them in formula and diapers. Louise didn't drive. I not only drove, but had a car. And as long as she was willing to help with one of the two occupants in the adjoining car seats, she was welcome to come everywhere the boys and I went. And she did!

Louise & Trevor
In an old station wagon that we jokingly referred to as the “red bomber”, the four of us would take to the road when I finished my part time morning job and head to the grocery store, K-Mart, the park or to Sunnyside Dairy Farm for ice cream and milk. It didn’t matter. We always planned some small outing requiring very little money, and made the most of it.

We started each day together, and it would usually end with the two of us sitting on my front porch watching the kids catch lightening bugs on summer evenings, or chasing leaves in the fall. There wasn’t a holiday or family birthday that Aunt Louise and her husband, Bill, didn’t spend with us. And, oh, those backyard barbeques featuring her favorite blue claw crabs! “Talking and chewing”, she liked to call the hours spent around the table telling stories and laughing. In later years, she revealed that those table time chatters were among her favorite memories.
Among my own favorite memories is that when you walked into Aunt Louise and Uncle Bill’s house, the buffet in the dining room was loaded with pictures of my two white, blond haired boys. How odd that must have seemed at first to her own family when they would visit. But to Aunt Louise, it was the way it should be.

The boys, walked in and out of her house at their leisure. Whether climbing up to the table for breakfast and letting Uncle Bill put hot sauce on their eggs, or spreading jelly on cornbread that Aunt Louise made in a cast iron pan, it was an extension of home to them. Literally, only a wall separated our two dwellings. From the time they were infants and could open their eyes and see her loving brown face, the boys were truly at home in her arms.

Going Shopping!
I actually can’t recall many memories of my sons as children that didn't include Louise. Her unconditional love for my family taught my boys, Trevor and Kyle, a tolerance of all people, an unqualified acceptance that I could never have taught them on my own. It is a character strength that they carry today as men. All the laughter and friendship aside, I am most grateful to her for that.

Sadly, Louise is gone now. But as a tribute to her for this Mother’s Day, I will tell you her most favorite story involving my son Kyle .She would tell it to everyone and anyone who would listen. Louise, this one is for you.

When Kyle was four, he was attending a pre-school, that Uncle Bill and Aunt Louise would take him to while I was working. One February, they were learning about black history. They were given coloring books with figures such as Martin Luther King, Eli Whitney and Rosa Parks. He brought the book home to show me. We were going through it when he pointed out that the teacher told him to use a brown crayon to color their faces.
“Why did she do that?” he asked me.
“Well, because they are African-American and they have darker skin then us, “I explained to him.
“Is Aunt Louise African-American?”
I was kind of waiting for this discussion, “yes, she and Uncle Bill both are”.
He sat quietly for a minute, and then asked “are they different from us?”
“I don’t think that they are, do you?” I asked him.
His hesitation surprised me a little, then he answered a firm, “No”
But then, he leaned in and lowered his voice. He seemingly wanted to let me in on a secret that only he knew. “There is one difference” and then leaned closer to my ear.
“When black people pee, it’s blue”.
“What?” I asked, not quite grasping what he was saying.
“Whenever, I go to the bathroom at Aunt Louise’s, I look in the potty and it is blue in there”
When I stopped laughing, I explained to him that she used a toilet disinfectant that I didn’t use at our house. 

He was happy with that explanation and went over Louise’s to have lunch with Uncle Bill. In his mind, any doubt of a difference between him and his beloved Aunt Louise, was gone. And all was right in his world.

Today, the buffet that held the many pictures of the boys sits in my house with a picture of Louise on it. It’s in the dining room, where she loved to spend her time “talking and chewing”. Throughout our home, there are pictures of her at the boys' sports awards, Christmas plays, zoo trips, and as they got older, graduations and proms. We are all so ever grateful for the blessing of her presence in our lives.
I miss you, my dear old friend. Happy Mothers Day.