Monday, July 30, 2012

Apricot Clove Jam

Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic
"Make my day, make my day, make my, make my, make, make my day. . . yo . ."  This jam recipe does indeed "make my day."  Not in a Dirty Harry "Do you feel lucky?  Well, do ya, punk" kind of way.  It's more in the Technotronic "get the party going on the dance floor" kind of way.  I've pumped this jam up with ground cloves.  I absolutely love the flecks of clove in the amber jam!  They are a perfect pairing!  And, well, adding this song to the mix makes it a triple play!

This was my breakfast today.  Go ahead - you can be jealous for a minute!  I'll let ya!

What you have here in this picture is some ciabatta bread, sliced on the diagonal and lightly sprayed with olive oil then grilled on my stove-top grill pan.  Then it's spread with some fresh mascarpone cheese.  After that, some Apricot Clove Jam is dolloped on top of that.  Sigh!

Apricots.  You're probably not going to see me eating one just plain.  It's just one of those things left over from childhood.  But start putting them in jams, syrups, sauces, tarts . . .  well, I'll be right there!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baby, What A Big Surprise by Chicago
Sometimes the obvious is "right before your very eyes."  But it takes someone to point it out to you, nonetheless.  That's what happened with today's recipe.  A smack right up along side my head!  I'm really glad Chicago had a song just right for the occasion - um, er recipe!  It lets me know that I'm not the only one who needs things pointed out to me once in awhile.  There are, in fact, enough people guilty of such nonsense that they were able to write a song about it and have it reach #4 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 chart!  The song's sentiment must have resonated with more than a few folks!

This is one of my buddies from culinary school - Noemi.
We fancied ourselves "gangsta" sometimes.  We called ourselves Salt and Pepper - and then made "S" and "P" signs in case anybody was confused as to which was which.  It makes me smile to see that, in true culinary resourceful mode, we affixed our signs to our chests with frill picks!  

Can I tell you how much easier culinary school was because of classmates like Noemi?  I was, by far, the oldest student in class but those "kids" treated me like one of them.  I hope they know how much I appreciate that.  I'll be sharing more stories about them as time passes, I'm sure!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ramen Chicken Salad - My Way

Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears For Fears
I'm like many people who roll their eyes when 80s music is brought up.  I'm not sure why I do this.  Some of my favorite bands and artists ruled during the 80s.  Tears For Fears being one of them.  I loved the beats of their songs and the catchy hooks in their intros.  I found the voices of both Smith and Orzabal to be intriguing - almost mesmerizing.  And, here I am, almost 30 years later, still listening to them and enjoying them just as much as I did when these songs ruled the airwaves!  I was reminded of this song because I made this Ramen Chicken Salad for dinner yesterday and the rather broad subject of "the world" came up.  

I know I've said this already but, in the heat of the summer, I seek out dinners that are quick, easy, and cool.  A really good salad pretty much fits the bill and this one started making the rounds in my circuit of friends about 15 years ago.  It sounded impossible when I heard about it.  Ramen noodles, UNCOOKED, crunched up and tossed with cabbage, chicken, and a dressing made from the packet of seasoning enclosed in the little rectangular package.  Very interesting . . .

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grandma's Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino
It didn't take much brain activity to conclude what today's song would be - a relief after the monumental thought process that went into my last post about my daughter, Katy.  Blueberry Pie = Blueberry Hill.  It's that simple.  And not just because it has the word "blueberry" in the title.  The word "hill" also fits today's story about my connection to this lovely berry.  There is an ongoing debate over who recorded the song first - Gene Autry and Glenn Miller being among those credited.  But Fats Domino's version is probably the most well-known.  I found it fun to sample Glenn Miller's cover and then listen to Fats' cover.  Voice style and arrangement differences lead me to conclude that the "thrill" referenced by both artists had very different meanings!  Times - they were a-changing, that's for sure!

My maternal grandparents always lived close when I was growing up.  But they had a second home as well.  A farm out in the country that sat perfectly upon a hill.  There was lots of acreage - it could have been 20, 80, or 100 acres.  To a kid, it just seemed like it went on for forever!

The drive out to the farm seemed like it took forever, too.  Of course, as an adult I can't imagine what my child mind was thinking.  It wasn't that far.  But I remember just hating the drive - until we hit the bottom of the hill.  That's where the magic began.  The area was deeply forested and that dirt road that took you up, up, up was completely covered by an umbrella of tree branches.  It was a tree tunnel!  It was wonderful!  At the top of the hill, the world just opened up before you with the farmhouse sitting off to the right and the barn and outbuildings all close by.  The car would barely come to a halt before we all piled out.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Light Grapefruit-Scented Cupcakes

Drops of Jupiter by Train
This was a difficult song choice.  Not because nothing came to mind but because EVERYTHING came to mind!  It was birthday time at my house - again.  My daughter, Katy, turned 24 yesterday.  She's a music hound.  Her musical tastes are probably as varied as my own.  She listens to my 70s mix almost as much as I do, but she's also always introducing me to new stuff as well - such as Florence + The Machine - part of our dinner conversation last night.  So which song to use for a post dedicated to her?  After much sampling and contemplating, I've settled on this beautifully poetic song by Train.  It's about a girl who goes out into "the atmosphere" and spreads her wings to see where she can fly.  This is where Katy is now poised - ready to adorn herself with drops of Jupiter - and I wish her all the very, very best!

I get people talking to me about my Katy all the time.  I hear words like "bubbly," "energetic," "full of life," "fun."  And they're right - she is every single one of those things.  She is a force of nature, creating her own whirlwind in her wake.  She does not travel life quietly.  Whatever she is involved in, she is involved in body and soul.  

As a little girl, we enrolled Katy in creative dance.  She took to it like a bird to the sky and we found great joy in watching her embrace this outlet.  Miss Joni, her teacher, was a genius in being able to get her class to express themselves fully.  After each routine she encouraged them to find their very own "finishing way."  This became part of the regular jargon at our home, with Katy constantly calling our attention to all the various "finishing ways" she could create.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tropical Tilapia

Kokomo by The Beach Boys
I was listening to my Beach Boys playlist while getting ready the other day.  That's probably what started this whole post today.  I've never been to Kokomo but it reminds me of all the tropical places I have been.  I love summer where I live.  Not many people know about this desert portion of the state of Washington.  It likes to get really hot here in the summer.  And it's a dry heat!  It's been teetering around the 100s this week and that suits me just fine.  Nonetheless, listening to my Beach Boys has had me daydreaming about tropical breezes, ocean waves crashing against the shore, and the coco-nutty scent of suntan lotion.  It's had me reminiscing about vacations.

I had some errands to run yesterday and I scheduled the trip to Target for last on my list.  You might remember me telling you about my fondness for shopping at Costco.  I mentioned that I had other favorite stores for which I allotted prime real estate on my errand list - allowing for maximum "grazing" time.  Target is one of them.  I hate to just run in and out of Target.  There's so much that beckons to me to stay and visit awhile.  The red and white decor attracts my eye, their entry decorations are always appealing, and I can't wait to see what treasures I find in the dollar bins!  Target is trendy without being spendy!  We are the best of friends!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shrimp Cocktail Pasta Salad

Saturday In the Park by Chicago
A few years ago I accompanied my husband on a business trip to a town on the outskirts of Chicago.  I knew I was going to want to explore the Windy City a bit, being so close and all.  I had traveled through Chicago many times but had never stopped and spent time there.  I checked out my transportation options and discovered that I could catch the "L" right in to the center of town and the Magnificent Mile.  By the looks of the train timetable I was going to be spending about 30 minutes in transit.  Normally I'd read a book.  But I wanted to observe the neighborhoods and get a feel for the residents of the city.  So I made up a playlist of songs about Chicago, by Chicago (the band), and songs that had an edgy inner city feel like Lose Yourself by Eminem.  It turned out to be the perfect backdrop as I traversed each community on my way inbound.  Since today's recipe was inspired by the lunch I had that day, I decided to choose a song from that playlist - one to which I could see myself eating this summer meal!

My first time exploring the streets of Chicago was sensory overload!  That city has so much going on!  I rode the "L" in from the suburbs and was deposited into the cacophony of a downtown urban symphony.  I thought I had memorized the immediate landmarks from my map and the route I'd be taking while I was on the train.  I didn't want to appear like a tourist when I got on foot.  No deal.  I was all mixed up when I emerged onto the street so out came the map.  It didn't take long, though, to get my bearings and I was off in hot pursuit of the Magnificent Mile!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie

Sugar, Sugar by The Archies
My childhood during the 60s was idyllic.  I lived in a smaller than small town called Clarendon.  My parents could let my brothers and I walk all over town without too much worry.  There was, literally, only one traffic light and that was on the corner where the road to Chapman Dam took off.  Mail wasn't delivered - you walked down to the post office to pick it up.  Summers were humid and lazy, spent lounging on the front porch reading Archie comic books and running from friend's house to friend's house.  Nothing was planned.  You figured out what you were going to do when you got there.  Watching TV was never, ever considered playtime.  Give us a jump rope, a ball, and our imaginations and we were set for hours!  Or sometimes if you had a sugar bowl handy ~

I had the best of times with my friends when I was a kid.  We played hopscotch, house, and all the jump rope games.  We could usually muster up a group of kids to really have a good time.  But, occasionally, it was just two of us.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Texas Hots

Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
Girls do just want to have fun!  No matter their age!  This includes grandmothers - and their grown granddaughters - who are now mothers as well.  Today's recipe is forever locked to a memory I have of my grandmother and I.  My maternal grandmother was a big part of my life as she always lived close.  She was fundamental in shaping who I am today.  But this particular memory, linked to Texas Hots, took place in my adulthood while I was back in Pennsylvania for a quick visit.  The goal of the trip was to find out more about my ancestry.  The outcome, however, was finding out more about the living - and learning that you're never too old to have fun.  You're never too old to want to have fun.

Texas Hots!  Many of you may be asking yourself "What are Texas Hots?"  Oh!  What sadness that there are so many who do ask - who don't know!  

Let me explain - Texas Hots, as I know them, are hot dogs served with mustard, a meat sauce, and chopped onions.  I refrain from calling it a chili sauce as there are no tomatoes.  These dogs defy all reason in their deliciousness!  The meat for the sauce is boiled until soft and the spices have all melded together.  The variety I know come from the western N.Y. area and have infiltrated to other regions thereabout - making their way down to my hometown of Warren, PA.  I remember when we had to travel to A.J.'s in Jamestown, NY, though, to get them.  It was a 30 minute drive and well worth it!  

When I was 18, I moved to Utah where, not only did they not know about Texas Hots, but they thought that hot dogs, in general, were inferior.  Hamburgers reigned supreme!  I was often mocked with a "tsk tsk" for my preference of the hot dog over the burger.  I was dumbfounded.  They did not understand and no amount of gesticulating or campaigning could get them to realize the error of their judgment.