Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gardening at Night

Not really. I just love that R.E.M. song.

But since I brought it up … my garden is starting to shape up nicely here in Central Pennsylvania. I have herbs and flowers and lettuce and edamame all planted in this lovely raised bed that my husband “built” for me a few years back:

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To the left, he has radishes planted; and those willows in the back, he started as sprigs from my brother-in-law’s tree.

I’m also experimenting with two TopsyTurvy® planters that my mom gave me as a gift:

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In the one on the left, I’ve planted a Better Boy tomato, and in the one on the right, cherry tomatoes for my son to enjoy.

But the real stars of my garden are plants no one will care about as much as I do. Like this mint:

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…because it reminds me daily of my grandfather — who long ago left us for Heaven. He used to wear just one sprig of mint above his ear, I’m told because the smell stayed with him all day long. My father followed suit as far back as I can remember, and until the day he died as well.

And this beautiful hosta…

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It too originated with my grandfather — in his garden, actually. Each move my family has made, we’ve taken a piece of the plant along to put into the garden of our new address. A literal piece of my past.

My grandfather, Ralph. What can I tell you about him? He died when I was a few days  short of five years old. He “came over on the boat” from Italy, settling just north of New York City in Westchester County, New York. His marriage was arranged, as they all were back then, and he and his wife, Marietta, were the proud parents of three children: Philomena (we know and love her as Aunt Fan), Frank (my dad), and Barbara (who you know from past posts and Mom’s party).

My grandfather was a hard worker, a concrete mason and a builder … and he constructed many of the beautiful homes that now grace Harrison, New York. We will drive from my aunt’s house to my cousin’s house, and they’ll say, “Poppy built that house ... and that one … and that one…”

That’s what we called him. Poppy.

Poppy was a quiet man … a good man. Even though I only knew him when I was young, I have fond memories of his visits to our home in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania. We would walk the sidewalks together, just he and I, and he would hold my hand.

I don’t know much about having grandfathers. My mother’s father was long gone when I was born, and Poppy was around for only a short time in my life. And my children have inherited the same fate — both their grandfathers gone before they were even born. I often wonder what it’s like to have had a grandfather into at least your 20s or 30s. Share that with me, please, in the Comments below. I’d love to hear your stories.

5-24-2010 4;43;07 PMIn the meantime, I’m challenged to offer a recipe. My mother tells me that on Friday nights, Poppy liked to cook Lobster Fri Diablo, with spaghetti on the side. He also enjoyed making escargots … and he was a grill man, through and through, constructing his own grill in his backyard. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that grill, or copies of any of his recipes.

What I can offer is a tradition, started by my grandfather … the tradition of “the drink.” You see, when my brother Ralph (named for my grandfather) was born, Poppy picked a “spirit” in his honor – Chartreuse. They drank it at my brother’s Christening, at his Communion, at every important occasion in his life. When Nick was born, Poppy chose Drambuie for him. For me, it was Tia Maria. (Did you expect anything else?)

My brothers followed in the tradition, choosing a "drink” for each of their children, and of course, being a fan of any good spirit, my husband heartily agreed to do the same when our children came along (like he really had any choice anyway). For Joe we chose one of my favorites, Bailey’s Irish Cream. For Maggie, we went high class with Godiva White Chocolate liqueur. I love this tradition. It’s different … it’s special … and it started with my grandfather.

Years ago, a coworker of my brother Ralph offered up a great homemade version of Bailey’s. (I know it’s a stretch, but it’s a great and tested recipe, so humor me.) With thanks to “Patty,” I give that recipe to you today … in honor of all good grandfathers everywhere, and especially mine, who started a “way-cool” tradition and is missed dearly by many people every single day, almost 41 years later. Io ti amerĂ² per sempre, Poppy.

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Patty’s Irish Cream
(Click here to view and print recipe)

 

 

 

 

Patty's Irish Cream on Foodista

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One Moment of Brilliance

I am a pretty modest person by nature. I don’t necessarily need to be or even like to be the center of attention, and when I am, I tend to be pretty self-effacing. But I have an admission. Upon rare occasion, I do have moments of brilliance … and I was reminded of one of those moments as I was prepping my marinade for a tonight’s London Broil.

The marinade was simple: some red wine, a few cloves of crushed garlic, Montreal Steak seasoning … probably not even a good marinade for that matter. It’s missing a healthy oil, right? And probably needs some fresh herbs? Well, that’s all I used. That was not the brilliance.

This was the brilliance:

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Using a 187 ml bottle of wine, instead of a full bottle. This may be my one original idea of my lifetime. It didn’t come from anyone on the Food Network, and it didn’t come from either of my brothers, or my mother, or my grandmother, or any of my aunts. The idea was all mine … and came about several years ago when I didn’t want to open a full bottle of wine when I only needed a cup as an ingredient.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like wine … I mean, drinking wine. But polishing off a full bottle after I’ve used only a cup … is beyond my current state of being. I lost tolerance during my child-bearing years, and I’ve never fully recovered.

So now I keep a stash of 187 ml bottles of white and red wine in my pantry. And after the half-cup or cup is measured out for whatever recipe I am concocting, this is what’s left …

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… for my enjoyment … or in this case, for my husband’s enjoyment when he walked in the door from work tonight.

Would Martha sue if I said, “It’s a good thing”? Salut, i miei amici!

What? You were expecting a recipe and didn’t get one?
Click here to link to many wonderful recipes from Foodie Friday!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Taste & Create: Sunday Morning Brunch

If you are a reader here, but don’t necessarily follow other blogs, you may not be familiar  with the many alliances formed among bloggers. There are “teams” of bloggers, who write about the same general topic and work to promote each other’s posts. There are also “awards” sent among bloggers – a nice little boost from one blogger to another saying something nice and again including links, so to further promote others’ blogs. And there are Mosaic Mondays and Tablescape Thursdays and Foodie Fridays.”

I tend not to get very involved in these “events” (for lack of a better term), for many reasons I do not wish to list … but mostly because, truth be told, I just am not all that much fun sometimes. In my defense, though, I have linked to Foodie Friday a few times. With that, I post a link to my ramblings and recipes on the host site, which brings many readers from around the world to Mangia, Figlie. And then I post a link to Foodie Friday here, which can lead you — my readers — to other interesting recipes as well.

I also participated in World Nutella Day, as you may remember. That one short post still leads readers to this blog, three months later. And if you go back to that February 5 post and use the link I posted, you will find an amazingly long and tempting list of all types of good eats, all made with Nutella!

In a similar vein, last week another blogger I “follow” mentioned she was taking part in The Bad Girl’s Kitchen “Taste & Create” event, which partners two participating food bloggers, then challenges each to try one of the other’s recipes and blog about it. That sounded like great fun to me — a chance to try something new and TandCdifferent — so I signed up and I’m here to talk about "Sunday Morning Brunch" from Min at the Bad Girl’s Kitchen. That’s right: I was partnered with the hostess!

It was fun making my way through the hundreds of recipes posted by Min over the past three years:

In the end, though, I opted for “Sunday Morning Brunch.” Min had me with her lead: “This recipe comes from my grandma.” Esattamente!

She goes on to say:

I got [the recipe] when I was looking through her recipe box this summer, and I decided to prepare it for a gathering … here at the ranch. This breakfast casserole is especially convenient for a large gathering because you put it together the night before, and refrigerate the casserole overnight.

I especially liked this part:

It is quite easy to put together, even after several glasses of wine. Or perhaps, ahem, many glasses of wine. Anyway, it's easy. And delicious.

I couldn’t agree more. On Saturday night, after a long day at our elementary PTO’s carnival, I came home and easily put together Min’s grandmother’s recipe.

In large bowl, mix a dozen eggs, a teaspoon of salt, a cup of milk,
a teaspoon of mustard, and a can of mushroom soup,
diluted with two-thirds of a cup of milk:

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In a 9x13” pan, layer eight slices of bread, diced;
one pound of sausage, cooked and drained;
one small can of mushrooms, and two cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese:

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Cover with egg mixture:

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No glasses of wine were consumed, though one (or more) would have been welcomed. I shoved the prepped dish in the fridge, where I was instructed to leave it (covered) overnight, and I quickly fell asleep.

On Sunday morning, per the recipe instructions, I baked the breakfast casserole at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Here is the steaming hot result:

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“Sunday Morning Brunch” is easy to prepare, exceptionally tasty, and I’m happy to report that even the kids gave it a try. My son would prefer a non-mushroom version in the future, but generally liked the idea of the dish; and my daughter ate like she rarely does, almost clearing her plate. My husband and I agreed: this recipe is a keeper.

I will definitely be making Min’s grandmother’s “Sunday Morning Brunch” again, but for me the most fun of “Taste & Create” was adding a whole host of recipes to my want-to-try list. Hopefully, this little blogger exercise has done the same for you.

Did I forget to mention Min’s Key Lime Cupcakes? My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

(Click here to read Min’s original “Sunday Morning Brunch” post)
(Click here to view and print recipe)
(Click here to view other “Taste & Create” entries)

Sausage & Mushroom Strata on Foodista

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Many Birds, One Recipe

As Mother’s Day comes to a close, I’d like to share what has always been my favorite children’s book:

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Yes, that’s my original copy … handed down from the son of my mom’s friend, Marlene. His name and the year — “Bobby H., 1964” — are in the front of the book. Thanks for sharing, Bobby H. In the infamous words of Emily Litella: “I love this book.”

My mother read this story to me over and over again when I was a child … simply because I asked her to. And this morning, for the first time in my 45 years of life, I saw a real-live robin pulling a real-live worm out of the ground. I didn’t have time to get a picture with my camera, but it reminded me of this drawing from the book:

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That’s Mama Bird, prepping for dinner. Surely, it was a sign … of some kind. 

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Mother’s Day …
a day to honor our moms … a day to be honored by our children. Yet, nothing was planned for today, since my daughter made her First Holy Communion yesterday and the planning took a good bit of my time. I can’t resist showing you how beautiful my baby looked:pretty








We celebrated with a family party … that meant cleaning and cooking as well. And finally, as my mom left after the party last night — every last dish dried — we agreed to make plans in the morning.

Unfortunately, when I woke up today, I found my son half-asleep on the sofa … sick. The wheels in my head started turning:

  • We obviously weren’t going out anywhere.
  • My friend’s mom was in town from the Midwest for the weekend, and my friend and I had talked about how her mom would love to try my Italian Wedding Soup.
  • It was cold outside.
  • And I still hadn’t offered my mom’s meatball recipe here on “Mangia, Figlie.”

Many birds, one recipe:

  • Make Italian Wedding Soup for lunch for my mom and my ailing son.
  • Share it with my friend and her mom.
  • Make extra (regular-sized) meatballs, bake them up, and serve with spaghetti for a special Mother’s Day dinner tonight.

Cold-weather food on a dreary day … and I would be stuck in the kitchen making it all. Sounded perfect to me. And as an added bonus, I would be able to sample the meatballs the way I like best — straight out of the oven, with a little bit of salt on top. Gustoso!

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Mom’s Meatballs
(Click here to view
and print recipe)










Only one thing…

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…as a final gift to your mom, my children, which one of you is doing the dishes?

Mom's Meatballs on Foodista

A Little Fun on Mother’s Day…

…with apologies to Letterman’s writers:

THE TOP TEN REASONS
TO MAKE MY MOM’S
SAUSAGE & PEPPERS RECIPE

#10: Even if you are an amateur in the kitchen, you can follow the recipe and be assured success every time.

#9: It’s the perfect party food (for reasons that follow).

#8: A single recipe will easily feed a crowd.

#7: A double recipe assures you leftovers for the week ahead (plus it freezes really well).

#6: You can make it a day ahead of time (which means less dishes at the party).

#5: It holds up well in the crock pot for hours on end.

#4: It’s a well-tested recipe by my mom, me, my friends….

#3: Even picky kids will eat it.

#2: The recipe requires only five ingredients (plus a few seasonings).

And the #1 reason to make my mom’s Sausage & Peppers recipe
[music please, Paul]:

#1: It just tastes good!


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom … and all! Tune in later tonight for another of Mom’s special recipes.

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Mom’s Sausage & Peppers
(Click here to view
and print recipe)



Sausage & Peppers on Foodista

Monday, May 3, 2010

Post Time

It’s time to fess up. I’ve been trying for almost two months to put together a post about my mom’s Sausage & Peppers recipe, and I just can’t get it right. I start something, save it, then three days later, delete it. Then I start again. Currently, I have … nothing. So I allow myself to be distracted by what’s going on in my life instead. And it seems to be working; the responses each week have been positive, and I will admit, even I liked the Breaking Bread post.

This weekend’s distraction, for instance, was the annual running of the Kentucky Derby — which means only one thing in the Boyer household: the annual trek to our friends’ annual Derby party one town over. We each bring one dollar, bet on a horse, eat cheesy potatoes, drink mint juleps … and win or lose, it’s always a good time!mosaicd7629df60be716be752f7e3e0eba358483e64104

Somewhere along the way, I became the baker of the Derby pies. When that happened, I did a little research and found online the Kentucky Derby Museum Cookbook recipe. I made two pies that first year, and though good, boy, were they potent! The problem being: I used the “good stuff.”

The original recipe calls for two tablespoons of Kentucky bourbon. My husband is a Knob Creek man (as is our host). I didn’t want to buy a whole bottle of cheap bourbon just for the pie … and isn’t there something I keep hearing on the Food Network about cooking with wine you would drink? I figured the same held true for bourbon. But over the years, I’ve learned that two tablespoons is just too much. So I’ve dropped it to one tablespoon of the “good stuff,” and now I’d have to say, the pie is perfect!

Of course, this year I mixed it up a bit. I baked just one Derby pie (Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie), and brought another dessert-specialty of mine: Lemon Sponge Pie. I’m told it’s a hard pie to make, but the recipe I have, which originated locally, must be good — the pie sets up well every time.

The Derby is done for another year. Super Saver won the race, and already I’m looking forward to next year’s party. I may have to bring three pies, though; the two went all too quickly. But you don’t have to wait a whole year to try making a Derby pie for yourself. It’s good any old day of the year. And with warm weather upon us here in the Northeast, lemon sponge is as refreshing as pie gets. Give that one a try as well.

Me … I’m back to the drawing board. I still have that Sausage & Peppers monkey on my back. Oh, “to write is to write….” Till next time: Buona la cottura, i miei amici.

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Kentucky Derby Museum Pie on Foodista