Sunday, November 29, 2009

SLEEPING THROUGH THANKSGIVING

Some people take a nap after dinner, Graciela perused the crowd, smelled the food, and decided to sleep through dinner. No milk for me here, she must have thought. Time for forty winks.

What a good, good, baby girl!
Right now sleeping is her favorite pass time.

Graciela, Gracie for short, born to Helen and Joe, on Friday, November 20, 2009. Pictured here with mom, this was her first Thanksgiving!









Saturday, November 28, 2009

THE LOST TURKEY NAMED BOB, by ALEX


Alex, my eight year old nephew who is in the third grade, wrote this essay as a class assignment. It's about Bob, a turkey who escaped from the truck that was transporting him to Washington. I suppose Bob didn't want to join all the other turkeys that inhabit Washington, our fair capital. Good for him! You will see after reading the story, that Bob found better accommodations.

After we assembled around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, my brother read to us "The lost turkey named Bob." Alex, the author of the piece was too bashful to read it to us himself. We listened, we applauded, and filled with mirth we began our dinner. I am thankful for my family and friends and I wish that each Thanksgiving I spend on this earth finds me just a bit wiser than the one before.



And now, here is the story of...

 
"The Lost Turkey Named Bob:"
written by Alex, who is in the 3rd grade.

     ON a nice November night a turkey named Bob was wandering in the very creepy woods. Bob did not know what was in the woods. But one day he found a house. The owner's name was ALEX. "Gobble, Gobble," said Bob. Alex let him in.
Meanwhile at a base somewhere in Canada...
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!

"A turkey has escaped!"

"Where is it?" asked the commander. "How did it escape?" "Did it climb out of the truck?" "NOW WHAT DO WE DO?!"



Back at Alex's house the turkey was asleep safe and sound. The agents in Canada were planning what to do. "Okay does anyone know where Bob is?"

No one had any idea.

Bob was on his way to Washington D.C. to be the guest of honor at the White House, when he jumped from the back. Alex was happy to have him in his house instead. Alex was a great host. The agents searched. They never found Alex's house.

It's lucky Alex only eats chicken.

The END.


When he is not playing host to Bob the turkey, Alex loves to play ice hockey.

Alex at summer ice hockey camp, with New Jersey Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur.


Summer 2009, Alex and dad Tasos, at hockey camp, post practice.




Thursday, November 26, 2009

ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Domestic violence does not stay at home; it follows its victims everywhere and manifests itself in recognizable behaviors. It is very difficult for a victim to break free of those behaviors. Learning about the pattern of abuse can help one to differenciate between healthy and unhealthy relationships. During an Internet search I found this concise and very pertinent information about domestic violence. I thought I would borrow it and make a space for it here.



Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair-pulling, biting, etc. Physical abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use.

Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.

Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one's abilities, name-calling, or damaging one's relationship with his or her children.

Economic Abuse: Making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one's access to money, or forbidding one's attendance at school or employment.



Psychological Abuse: Causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner's family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.
Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large.
Children, who grow up witnessing domestic violence, are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life - therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society's next generation of victims and abusers.



To this I want to add something I wrote one night when the going was pretty tough for me: "If a person is terrorised, fear develops and fear turns to anger and aggression. With maturity comes the ability to subdue aggression and fear. Fear hides behind feelings of anxiety, of depression, of self hatred."



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

GARLICKY, CHEESY MASHED POTATOES: What's the best potato for mashing?


This is comfort food! Lots of calories and lots of taste. Kid friendly too, as my seven year old nephew Alex will tell you, because he loves it. Good to have as a side dish for a special occasion. 
The trick to getting nice mashed potatoes is to make sure they don't come out gluey.  To that end, try not to overcook them so that they don't retain a lot of water.  Also, make sure you drain them really well.  And, don't use a food processor or mixer to mash them with.  Heavy duty beating releases the starch contained in the potatoes, and the starch that leaches out makes for a gluey, pasty texture. Mash your potatoes by hand.  Try using potatoes that are high in starch, such as baking or russet potatoes.  You'll find that they will break down easily and quickly, which not only is less labor intensive, but also prevents starch from being released.  The result will be mashed potatoes that are fluffy. Potatoes such as reds are low in starch, so they tend to hold on to their shape and their flesh does not break down easily.  They need  a longer time to mash, and this prolonged time will cause them to turn gluey.  That's why red potatoes are best for smashed potato recipes, and russets work best for mashed potatoes.  With a minimum of effort russets or baking potatoes will become fluffy and delicious! 

Ingredients:


5 pounds russet (baking) potatoes
10 cloves of garlic peeled and cut in half
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:


  • Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Pace them in a large saucepan and cover them with water. Add the garlic and a little salt.
  • Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes feel tender when pierced. Drain really well and discard the garlic.
  • Meanwhile slowly heat the milk with bay leaf and the butter until all the butter melts. Make sure the milk does not boil.
  • Mash the potatoes with a potato masher.  
  • Remove the bay leaf from the hot milk mixture, add the milk to the potatoes and mix gently with a whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  • Fold in the cheese and season with pepper. 
  • Serve the mashed potatoes to your friends and bow because they will be applauding after they have tasted them. If by any chance they do not applaud, bow anyway. It will make for an eccentric evening.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brussels Sprouts and Carrots with Pancetta & Chestnuts

Well, this recipe is my own creation and I put it together because I needed something really inventive to take to my brother's house for Thanksgiving dinner. I wonder what every one will think of it...Will they like it? I myself like the combination of Brussels sprouts and carrots. They look really pretty together, they have an inherent affinity for each other, they whisper winter, winter, as they are being cooked. Chestnuts are an appropriate addition to the holiday table and pancetta buzzes around the whole dish, teasing the tongue. That should make for a very pleasant experience. To make this dish you will need:

2 medium shallots, chopped
1 lb carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 lb Brussels sprouts, cut in half lenghwise, stems trimmed
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 lb pancetta cut into small pieces (remember to remove the rind)
1 lb chestnuts
1 & 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon canola oil


Directions:

Score the side of each chestnut with a knife. Drop the scored chestnuts in hot water and boil them until they are soft. Do not over cook them. If you do,  they'll have a floury consistency, and you don't want that. Drain the water, and when the chestnuts are cool enough to handle, peel them. The outer husk is easy to remove when the chestnuts are cooked. However, chestnuts have an inner thinner and somewhat fuzzy skin which must also be removed. It tends to adhere to the seed, so make sure you peel it off, because it has a bitter taste. To prepare the chestnuts requires a bit of labor, so if you can find them in a jar go ahead and use them. The problem is that it is not easy to find jarred chestnuts.


Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the shallots, sauteing them until they are soft, about one minute.


Add the carrots, Brussels sprouts and the black pepper and cook stirring until the vegetables begin to brown a bit. This should take about 3 minutes.


Add one cup of chicken broth and simmer for about ten minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter, half of the parsley and the the vinegar.


Meanwhile cook the pancetta in the canola oil until it is crisp. Make sure it does not become burned or dried out. Drain it on paper towels.  Saute the chestnuts in the remaining two tablespoons of butter for about 2  or 3 minutes.  Add the chestnuts and pancetta into the carrots and Brussels sprouts.  Fold in gently.

Check the seasonings and correct them if needed. Pour the vegetables into a nice serving dish, and sprinkle them with the remaining parsley before bringing them to the table.


All right, get ready, here's the decision about how this tasted: pretty good! Sauteing the vegetables and cooking them in broth and butter gives them a great taste. So, if you like your vegetables, you will like it. If you are not a fan of Brussels sprouts or carrots, as two or three people sitting at the Thanksgiving table were not, you will pass the dish on to the person next to you. Some people had seconds, and a relative took the bit that was left over home, for the next day's lunch. On the other hand, another relative, Joe, who hates carrots, did not care for this dish.  Joe just helped himself to more mashed potatoes.
I didn't get to take all the pictures I wanted to, but I hopefully, next time I make this dish I'll have more time to use the camera. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

CRANBERRY SALAD GELATIN MOLD



I'm going retro with this recipe, but I am hoping that one day it will come back into style. When I first made cranberry salad mold, it was still au courant, but that was a while ago. Since then it has become an absolute staple at our Thanksgiving table. It's both sweet and tart, it's crunchy, and above all it's really, really fruity. It reminds me of a Waldorf salad with cranberries. It's very retro! It's also very colorful, and it's very much requested by friends and family come Thanksgiving. I discovered the recipe in a magazine many years ago, and I made it by following the recipe precisely. Well, as the years went by I changed a bit of this, I added a bit of that, and then I went ahead and lost the original recipe. So I guess the current version is half borrowed, half invented and half taken from someplace else. Yes, in my world of mathematics there can sometimes exist three halves to one whole. Anyway, everyone loves this cranberry mold, and every Thanksgiving folks make sure I'll be making it. Sometimes, someone asks for the recipe. My reply is usually a slow smile, not because I don't want to give away any archival recipe secrets, but because I don't have a specific cranberry mold recipe written down. So now that I have my very own blog, and now that Thanksgiving is upon us, and now that I am getting ready to make my cranberry mold for the big day, I've decided to get the ingredients together and to write down the recipe while I am making it. This is a really good idea. After all, I am getting older, and who knows, I might start forgetting things. What would happen to Thanksgiving if I couldn't remember how to make a decent cranberry mold? People would be sad. No one will love me during the holidays. The stress would be unbearable. Here's the recipe, written down and saved for posterity.
Some things are canned and some things are fresh.  Shown here are the ingredients for the cranberry salad. The apple is always, always a Honeycrisp! Best variety in my opinion.


Ingredients:
2 (14 ounces) cans whole berry cranberry sauce
2 cups pure cranberry juice, no sugar added
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 (3 ounces) packages of raspberry flavored Jello
1 tablespoon of unflavored gelatin
1 (16 ounces) can of crushed pineapple packed in pineapple juice, not syrup, or go ahead and use fresh pineapple cut up in small pieces, nothing wrong with that!
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup seedless grapes, cut in half, lengthwise
1medium apple peeled, cored, and chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup of celery

Directions:
  • Buy that nice, really tart organic cranberry juice that contains nothing but cranberries. That one is the best!  
  • In a large saucepan combine the cranberry juice with the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the Jello and the gelatin, stirring with a whisk until they completely dissolve into the juice.
  • To this add the cranberry sauce and keep stirring until it breaks up and mixes well with the warm liquid. Pour into a large glass container and place in the refrigerator. Keep an eye on it, and take it out of the refrigerator when it's almost set. 
After the sauce is almost set, add the rest of the ingredients and mix.
  • Now comes the time to mix in the rest of the ingredients.  They must be mixed in when the sauce is almost set. This way they will adhere to the gelatin, and they will be evenly distributed. If you add them when the sauce is still in its liquid state, they will float to the top and stay there.
  • Fold the pineapple into the cold cranberry sauce, gently mixing it well.  Add a little of the pineapple juice, not all of it.
  • Add all the other ingredients one by one until they are well incorporated into that beautiful red mush.
  • After everything is mixed well, pour it into a nice mold and place it back in the refrigerator.  Allow it to set completely.  It should be left in overnight.
  • When you are ready to serve it, take the mold out of the refrigerator and let it rest in a warm bath for a just a few minutes and only a few minutes. This will allow the gelatin to loosen easily from the mold. If it stays in the hot water a little too long, it will start to liquefy.  
  • Place a serving plate on top of the mold and carefully invert the salad onto the plate. Now you will unmold your creation: give it a gentle shake and you will see that you will be able to pull the mold away from the gelatin. It will look beautiful! You can decorate your serving plate with some greens or with additional fruit.  
  • If you will not serve this right away, you can plate it a little while before dinner and then place it back in the refrigerator until it's time to bring it to the table. 
  • The ingredients listed here fill my mold plus allow for a bit to be left over. I cool that portion in a plain container and save it for later. What you see plated here tends to disappear quickly.
 I decorated with mums from my garden and with kumquats.  One of my favorite colors for mums, white with a blush of purple! Who can resist that?