Monday, March 30, 2009

Moonstruck --- Dinner and a Movie



Susan from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy and Marc from No Recipes are co-hosting a fun event called Dinner and a Movie. This month’s installment features the 1987 Norman Jewison film Moonstruck.

This delightful romantic comedy features excellent ensemble performances and an Oscar-winning performance from Cher.
She plays a 38-year-old Italian-American widow named Loretta Castorini who says "yes" to her longtime boyfriend Johnny Cammareri's (Danny Aiello) marriage proposal, then falls in love with his estranged brother Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage) when she has to visit him at his bakery in order to invite him to their wedding.

You can watch the movie trailor below -- please turn off my blog's music first, by clicking on the double bars in the Playlist box located on my right sidebar.






Monnstruck has always been one of my favorite movies, because it portrays a true slice of life in Brooklyn, New York, the place where I have lived my entire life.

Although I'm not Italian, I'm married to a native born Italian, and have many friends of Italian-American descent who live in the Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens neighborhood where scenes from the movie were filmed. When I first saw Moonstruck in the theater years ago I laughed and cried and elbowed my husband with bouts of recognition during a few scenes when something being portrayed was uncannily true to people we knew or situations we've seen happen!
Throughout my 34+ year marriage I've experienced the unconditional love of "alla famigilia," and the Italian- American's love affair with love, food, opera and music, and respect for family and friends. It's alway passionate, never dull!

To see more about Brooklyn Heights you can read some of the blog posts I did about the neighborhood here and here.

It's an historical neighborhood with incredible views across the East River to lower Manhattan.

My photo above, and a still from the movie below.

In this wonderful Youtube video you can see the "then" Moonstruck movie locations and the "now" (2004) of the same locations as they look today.






This is the beautiful house on Cranberry Street that was used as the Castorini family home in the movie. It sold a few years ago for almost 4 million dollars!


There was actually once a Cammareri Brothers Bakery located in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, located at Henry and Sackett Streets. Recently the Cammareri's paired with Monteleone, a pastry shop at 355 Court Street, between Union and President Street, to sell their bread along with the pastries ... another marriage made in heaven!


Because I think Moonstruck's Johnny Cammareri was a "baccala" --which is also known as an Italian slang word for a less than smart person -- for letting Loretta's love slip from his life in the movie to his brother Ronny, I prepared my version of "Baccala Florentine" as my dinner recipe.

First I purchased a nice two pound piece of baccala -- preserved salt cod fish.

Since it is salted, all baccalà requires soaking before it can be used. I usually soak it at least three days, keeping it in the refrigerator and changing the water often.


There are many ways to prepare baccala and this is one of our favorites.


BACCALA FLORENTINE - A LA MOONSTRUCK


2 lbs. of salt cod --soaked in water at least 48 hours

6 boiled potatoes, peeled, cubed and kept warm

2 cloves of garlic-chopped

1 bunch scallions (green onions) rinsed and chopped

two celery stalks chopped

1 cup black oil cured olives or green Sicilian olives

1 cup vinegar cured green and red peppers chopped

1 tablespoon capers

3 tbs. of tomato paste

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon dried oregano --more or less to taste

2 teaspoon dried basil or handful of fresh basil leaves if available --more or less to taste

1 cup of water

1/2 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup of flour


pinch of red pepper if desired


Cut fish into 4 inch pieces, and roll it in flour. Heat oil in a skillet, and brown fish on both sides. Set fish aside on a platter and keep warm; add garlic, scallions, and celery to the skillet and saute till soft adding more olive oil if needed. When vegetables are soft add the tomato paste. water and white wine and stir well until paste is dissolved. Add olives, capers, and peppers and stir well. Place fish on top and simmer slowly about 15 minutes. Turn fish over and simmer another 10 minutes making sure the sauce is not sticking to the skillet -- add a little more water or wine if needed. Season with oregano and basil and red pepper flakes to taste. Since the fish was salted I don't add salt to this dish but you can add some to taste if desired.

Serve over boiled, cubed potatoes.

We usually have baccala as part of the Italian tradition of the "Feast of the Seven Fishes" on Christmas Eve, but it is good to eat anytime!

It was fun to revisit a favorite old movie and cook a favorite traditional Italian dinner as part of this event.Thanks Susan and Marc! Be sure to visit their blogs to see more participants of a Dinner and a Movie!

I seem to be doing a lot of cooking lately. Next blog post I'll be back in Manhattan with more interesting sights to show you!

Plant Basil!

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Spring is here and I want to encourage everyone to buy a package or two (or more) of basil seeds and plant them in your garden, when the danger of frost is over for your area.

There are many varieties of basil, but the one which I plant and which is used most often in Italian food is typically called sweet basil. It has a sweet and slight licorice taste.

I have a lot of success planting basil in large flower pots. Once the seeds sprout I thin them out to allow for growth, and then all the basil plants need is full sun and regular watering. Basil plants also benefit from having their top leaves pinched off for use, as it grows, as this will help prevent the plant from bolting to seed. Just pinch off the top most leaves for use, and then you can also snip more from other branches as needed.

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Basil is the perfect addition to many culinary dishes, whether paired fresh with tomatoes in a caprese salad, or cooked in tomato sauce. Be sure to add it to the sauce at the last few minutes to preserve its flavor.

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I also used fresh basil leaves to make Pound Cake with Lemon-Basil Glaze last summer, a delicious cake I found in the June '08 issue of Cooking Light Magazine.

Pound Cake with Lemon-Basil Glaze

Ingredients

  • Cake:
  • 10 tablespoon butter, softened and divided
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour -- *I used half white, half whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large egg whites

  • Glaze:
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of salt

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with 1 tablespoon butter, and dust with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and the remaining 9 tablespoons butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in rind and extract. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine buttermilk and 2 tablespoons juice. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

4. Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form, using clean, dry beaters. Add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-third of egg white mixture into batter; fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

5. To prepare glaze, combine half-and-half and basil in a small microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds. Let stand 5 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl; discard basil. Combine half-and-half, powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons juice, and dash of salt; stir with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle half of glaze over cake; let stand 5 minutes or until set. Repeat procedure with remaining glaze.

Freezing Basil:

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Basil also freezes well! I had such a large crop last summer that harvested many of the bright green leaves towards the end of the season, washed and drained them well and then pureed them in my food processor. I placed the basil puree in ice cube trays lined with plastic wrap, filling each pocket. I froze them and then removed the frozen basil cubes from the ice trays and stored them in a freezer bag in my freezer. This way I could defrost as many cubes as I needed to add to my recipe.

You can also freeze basil pesto that you make in the same way, but omit the cheese as it doesn't freeze well. When you want to use it, defrost, and then add in the grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Having a supply of “fresh” frozen basil all winter was wonderful! I added it to my tomato sauces and vegetable soups, used some as a flavoring to add to sautéed vegetables, added some to salad dressings, used it as a topping for baked fish, and even made my fresh basil pasta recipe with it!

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Grow basil this summer. It’s truly one of the most versatile herbs of the garden!

Friday, March 27, 2009

March Daring Baker ~ Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna - (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

Daring Bakers March 2009 Challenge

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

This month’s challenge has global input, with the three hosts living in three continents: Mary from Canada, Melinda from Australia and Enza from Italy.

"They explained that lasagne is a dish that has successfully transcended borders and is today made around the world, albeit with many variations from the Italian original. Even within Italy, there are many variations and each region has its own lasagne tradition. But, as Lynne explains in her introduction to the recipe –and Enza, as our Italian expert for this dish, also agrees - the dish should always be a “vivid expression of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of cooking. Mere films of béchamel sauce and meat ragu coat the sheerest spinach pasta. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dusts each layer. There is nothing more; no ricotta, no piling on of meats, vegetables or cheese; little tomato, and no hot spice. Baking performs the final marriage of flavours. The results are splendid.”

The ingredients begin with preparing the sauce or "ragu", the pasta and the bechamel sauce.

Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped

1 medium onion, minced

1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced

1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:

The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:

Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete.

Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color.
Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering:

Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.



The meats and vegetables for the sauce







Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)

10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment:
A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.
A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.
A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.
Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.
A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.
Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:

Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:

If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible.

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.




Kneading the pasta until it is smooth and springy to touch.






Interesting videos of hand rolled pasta being made:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_jf9A1tVu8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48xLylWhxVc&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-BU8VtJg6E&feature=related


I used a pasta machine to roll out my pasta. It was definitely easier and quicker than hand rolling and cutting the pasta.
I was also able to roll the pasta into the thinnest setting of "0" so that it was translucent, as this recipe requires.



Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2 & 2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg

Making Bechamel Sauce video:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yrbsbQGjRM


THE PREPARATION:


Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)


(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water

1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe above)

1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe above)

1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe above)

1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method

Working Ahead:

The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:

Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:

Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:

Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:

Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready).

Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold.

Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served

It tasted absolutely HEAVENLY! We ooh-ed and ahh-ed with every bite! I had never made a northern Italian style lasagne before, and while it was somewhat work intensive -- I was cooking and preparing it for a total of five hours -- it was well worth the effort, as it was so delicious. It would be something I'd consider making for a special occasion or a holiday.

One nice bonus to this challenge was that the ragu recipe and pasta recipe were large enough in quantity to leave left overs that weren't needed in the assembly of the lasagne, so I cut the remaining pasta as tagliatelle and we had it for dinner on another night, topped with some of the remaining ragu.

This was also wonderful !

Thank you Enza, Mary and Melinda for a wonderful Daring Baker Challenge!

Now for some exciting news! Perhaps you noticed that my Daring Baker sidebar badge has changed to be a new "The Daring Kitchen" badge? It's because there is a wonderful new The Daring Kitchen website! Now registered members who join The Daring Kitchen also have another choice of a challenge in addition to, or beside, "Daring Baker" there will also be "Daring Cooks"!

As of now I joined both divisions, and the first Daring Cooks challenge will be presented in May.

Please visit The Daring Kitchen website and learn more about Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks and visit some of the other blogs on the blogroll that participated in the March Challenge to see their Lasagne Verdi al Forno.
There is now a recipe archive, FAQ's, a forum, cookbook reviews and lots more on The daring Kitchen web site. You can register to join too!


I hope you'll join in on all the fun and take a Daring Kitchen challenge!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cookies, Awards, and Rewards!

I have been a member of a very unique free online e-mail book club called "Dear Reader" for many years. I posted about it once before on this post.

To find more information about it and to join, go to the web site , sign up for one (or more) of the free book clubs from a choice of fiction, non-fiction, mystery, business, good news, science fiction, romance, thriller, audio, and pre-publication. Then every day Suzanne Beecher, the Dear Reader founder, will email you a 5-minute portion of a book to read along with her very personable letter for the day.

She sends a different book each week, Monday through Friday, and you can sample two to three chapters in total, enough to know whether you enjoy the book enough to look for it at your local library, or purchase it.

It's a great way to sample books before you buy them , discover new books and new authors , be the first to read new releases, and you can enter to win free books given away from time to time through the club, plus enter contests where Suzanne gives away fun little things and her famous chocolate chip cookies once a month!

When I posted before I ended my post with the hope that one day I'd win Suzanne's cookies. Recently I entered a suggestion in a contest as to how to help Suzanne promote her book club. I suggested that she have a "widget" created so that bloggers can put it on their sidebars, so that their readers could click through to read about her club and join it. You guessed it, I won her cookies for my suggestion! I was so excited to receive them in the mail recently. Suzanne, they were so delicious!

Suzanne hasn't developed the widget as yet, but hopefully soon, and in the meantime I'll place my own "Dear Reader" badge on my sidebar that will click through to her club.

Here is a photo of the cookies after I opened the box they were delivered in, and Suzanne's nice note:

A close up of all their soft and chewy goodness. You can find Suzanne's recipe on her "Dear Reader" website! Suzanne is a marvelous cook and often shares her recipes.

Please visit "Dear Reader" and try a book club or two. You'll find many wonderful books and you, too, will soon think of Suzanne as a wonderful friend. Who knows -- maybe you'll win her fabulous chocolate chips cookies one day too!

I have recently been awarded the "friendship Award" by two new blog friends, Rita of Tesoro Fino Fine Treasures blog, and Cynthia of the Oasis Writers Link blog. Thank you both so much! Rita owns an antique and design store on Long Island, New York and is very proud of her Italian heritage. Cynthia describes her blog as "a place for commentary about life and culture in Puerto Rico and beyond; experiences with yoga, and literature -spiced with a strong dash of appreciation for nature, art, film and music." Please visit both of their beautiful and interesting blogs.

Carol of The Writer's Porch blog presented me with the "Fabulous Blog" award last week. Carol lives on a ranch in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and is the daughter of a singer/songwriter of Country music. She is a devout reader ,and currently writing her first novel. I know you'll also find her blog very interesting, so please visit her soon!

Both these awards are to be distributed to five other bloggers, but I always struggle with that requirement, as I find it hard to choose just a few of the many wonderful blogs I read. Please know that you are all my friend and I find your blogs fabulous!


After enjoying blogging for a year I find my sidebar full of award badges, and although I treasure each and every one for the kind thoughts of friendship that was extended to me through them, I would like to announce that from now on I'm making my blog "award free."

My rewards are the kind and encouraging comments you leave on my blog posts and in e-mail. It may take me a few days, or more, at busy times for me to visit your blog if you have one, but I read all my comments every day and I thank you all very much for making blogging such an enjoyable hobby for me!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cure Magazine


Are you a cancer patient, a cancer survivor, or a caregiver to someone who has /had cancer in the U.S?

If so, you can receive a free subscription to the award winning CURE MAGAZINE

In CURE, you’ll read about:

  • Exciting developments in cancer therapy and technology

  • In-depth cancer-specific news

  • Cutting-edge diagnostics and prevention strategies

  • Effective ways to manage side effects of treatment

  • How to handle work, family, finances, and other practical matters

  • The social and emotional issues surrounding cancer

  • Guidance and hope for caregivers

Go here and enter your subscription information and you will begin to receive this quality quarterly magazine for free. You can also sign up for their free e-mail newsletter at this link.

If you are not directly effected by cancer, but still wish to receive the magazine, you can also pay for a subscription.

Visit their website Cure Today where you can read some of the current magazine articles, find helpful information for each stage of your cancer journey, and links to comprehensive list of resources for agencies and non-profit organizations for information on specific cancers, patient and survivor issues, financial help, and integrative therapies.

As a thyroid cancer survivor I was especially interested in this article about thyroid cancer in the current Spring issue: The Good Cancer? If you look at my blog's right sidebar I have a thyroid cancer ribbon which you can click on to view the American Cancer Society's website page which lists the signs and symptoms to look for regarding thyroid cancer.

I have been receiving Cure Magazine since it's inception in 2002, and I highly recommend it. As the magazine's motto states, "it combines science with humanity and it makes cancer understandable."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Shchav - Russian Swiss Chard Soup

One of the green vegetables that become plentiful in Spring is Swiss Chard. It also happens to be one of my favorite vegetables to eat. I often chop it, saute it in a little olive oil with garlic and onions, and sometimes I'll add either some crushed tomatoes, or precooked beans, or boiled cubed potatoes to the skillet as a change of pace.

Last weekend I wanted to try something entirely different and my daughter told me about this recipe she saw on Cooks.com

It was quick, easy and absolutely delicious!

Here is my slightly modified version:


SHCHAV - RUSSIAN SWISS CHARD SOUP

1 lb. cleaned Swiss chard

0ne medium chopped red onion

three potatoes peeled and chopped into small cubes

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 c. chicken broth (canned or freshly made)

1/2 c. milk or sour cream


First melt butter in a wide, heavy pan. Add chopped or thinly sliced stems of Swiss chard and chopped red onion and cook, covered, for 3-4 minutes. Stir in chopped leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes more.

Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour and stir until blended. Gradually blend in chicken broth and potatoes and cook until potatoes are soft.

Slowly add milk or sour cream, cook and stir until slightly thickened.

If a smooth green soup is preferred, whirl mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender until it has the consistency desired.

Season to taste with salt and and pepper.

Makes 4-6 servings.

I did not blend the soup this time as I wanted to keep it a little hearty, as it was our whole meal with the addition of some seasoned croutons, but I may try blending it the next time I make it and serve a smaller amount as a first course.

If you like Swiss chard you'll love this soup -- it's a nice taste of Spring in your bowl!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy First Day of Spring!

This is my sweetheart grandson trying on rabbit ears at the dollar bins in Target when he was shopping with his Mommy. He seems to be a little bemused doesn't he?

For a baby everything is a first, a little miracle for them to experience!


Spring

by Celia Thaxter


The alder by the river
Shakes out her powdery curls;
The willow buds in silver
For little boys and girls.
The little birds fly over
And oh, how sweet they sing!
To tell the happy children
That once again 'tis spring.
The gay green grass comes creeping
So soft beneath their feet;
The frogs begin to ripple
A music clear and sweet.
And buttercups are coming,
And scarlet columbine,
And in the sunny meadows
The dandelions shine.
And just as many daisies
As their soft hands can hold
The little ones may gather,
All fair in white and gold.
Here blows the warm red clover,
There peeps the violet blue;
O happy little children!
God made them all for you!

Happy Spring!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blogger Lunch and The St. Patrick's Day Parade

I met a leprechaun in New York City yesterday! He was a lot taller than the legend has us believe, and he didn't lead me to a pot of gold, but he did bring me good luck as you will shortly see...

Where do you meet people for the first time in the middle of a big city that is extra crowded because it is Saint Patrick's Day, and no place on earth celebrates it a big as NYC does?

You head over to Grand Central Station of course!

Everyone knows to meet by the information booth under the clock.

I am there first and I start to see quite a few people decked out in green.





Some even had green hair!

Everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick's day in New York.

This man certainly is 100% Irish! He looks a little like the actor Brain Dennehy doesn't he Susie Q?
As you can see I entertained myself taking photos as I was waiting and waiting until....

Here we are! Myself, Laura of Shorehouse Chic and Diane of A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words meeting for the first time!

We had lunch in Juniors in Grand Central Station, including a piece of their famous cheesecake for dessert.

As you can see we had a really fun time! Diane brought us gifts! A lovely smelling Mississippi "sweet cotton" candle and magnolia soap.


After lunch Laura had to head back to work and Diane and friend and I headed towards Fifth Ave to see the 248th annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade! It was a sunny day in the high 50's so the good weather was going to bring an estimated two million viewers to the parade route from East 44 Street to East 86 Street, all along Fifth Avenue.

The side streets for many blocks were staging areas where the bands and marchers waited until it was their turn to go.

We finally found a spot along Fifth Avenue where we could begin to watch the parade go by.

Bagpipes....

And more bagpipes......

Playing and marching along Fifth Avenue.

An Irish step dancing troupe did a few steps of a jig for the crowd before they marched on.






He is quite impressive Drum or Pipe major isn't he? The large staff he carries is called a mace.



New York City Police marching in the parade.


Looking down towards 44 Street.



Dignitaries from County Cork, Ireland below.



Another impressive drum major
One of the marching banners from County Donegal, Ireland.

After watching the parade for about an hour (it goes on for about four hours!) we left to go downtown to see a few more NYC sights together and had a very enjoyable day. I think we did well over the recommended 10,000 steps today, didn't we Diane? I hope you will enjoy the rest of your visit in NYC and have a very safe trip home. It was so nice meeting you and your friends and Laura today, and I hope we can do it again another time!
So while the leprechaun did not lead me to a pot of gold today he brought me something even better .......

Wonderful time spent with FRIENDS!