It’s National Tie One On Day!!!

Fran in 50's apron

Me, in my younger days, having tied one one.

Today is National Tie One On Day. If you want to go out and get wasted, be my guest. But I will be in the kitchen tying an apron around my waist – which is the real meaning behind the day, according to the National Day Calendar. Since it’s the day before Thanksgiving, tying on an apron is what most red-blooded Americans will be doing. I’m proud to say I’m one of them.

I will also be making and sharing some food, since my two kids will be here for Thanksgiving and my other son and his family are visiting this weekend. I get to see sweet Brandon, Ingrid and those cute little blonde-headed grandkids, who call me Fran-ma…since I’m not technically their Grandma. But try to convince me of that. Continue reading

How Do We Help Veterans?

SignIf you’ve ever wondered how you can help Veterans — there’s a way,  and some dedicated people are doing it every day.  I just ran into some a couple months ago.
 

I walk my dog every night and in mid-September, I was walking past a local park and saw it all lit up at ten o clock at night. There were flags planted in the ground, and chairs all set up, as if something was about to happen — but there were only two or three people  milling around.

I thought it was a film crew getting ready for the next day’s shoot. There were a couple people walking on the sidewalk in front of the park, so I asked them what was going on. They said they were with a group called, Not On Our Watch.

WalkersI’d never heard of it and asked what their group did. They were taking turns walking 24 hours a day, for three days straight, so there was never a time someone wasn’t walking in honor, or in memory, of a veteran . They were doing it to bring awareness to military suicides and the difficulties veterans have reintegrating back into society after being at war.

They told me 22 veterans a day, take their own lives, once they leave the military. That’s an astounding number and there are those who dispute it.  On a website called Military.com, there is a story about the numbers.  The story says the 22 number was taken from a report done in 2012 and a more recent report with data from 2005 through 2015 says the actual number is 20 and that includes active duty and veterans. So, 16.8 are veterans and 3.8 are active duty who are taking their own lives every day.

But the people walking for Not on Our Watch say that any number of suicides is too many, and I agree. Clearly, something is wrong when there are these kinds of numbers. And the recent killings in Thousand Oaks California by a Marine, who murdered 12 people in a bar, re-confirm, something has to be done to help these veterans.

I don’t know that war is hell from my own experience, but my father, a man of few words, said it was, and I believe him.  The fact that he wouldn’t even speak of it until he was 95 years old, and probably had forgotten the worst of it, speaks volumes. He served as a medic, and did his best to save the lives of those were in battle. I’m sure he saw things he wished he’d never seen.

Hoping to learn more about his experience, a few months ago, I watched a documentary on World War II by Ken Burns on Netflix and it was incredibly well done, showing the tragedy of war and the unbelievable human cost.

I get whiny when I have to get out of a warm, clean bed on days when I don’t feel like going to work — and these men and women, in times of war, have to eat, sleep, stay awake, and do everything outdoors, in rain, freezing snow, floods, or in suffocating heat and sandstorms, while being fired upon, or taken prisoner and tortured. I can’t even imagine what that must be like and hope I never have to.

It’s no wonder they’ll do anything to stop living that reality, leaving their families and friends heartbroken.

The brochure I got from Not On Our Watch states that their mission is to promote the optimal reintegration of veterans back into the community.  They do this while honoring their service, working to strengthen the community bond and helping restore a sense of wholeness of mind, body and soul to veterans and their families.

Their website is WellnessWorks4Veterans.org and I think it’s  a very important, and necessary undertaking.  You can’t take months teaching people to kill, send them to kill, then just put them back into society, and expect them to do just fine. There’s an interesting article at this link: National Council on Family Relations that explains what the returning veteran can experience.

Check out the WellnessWorks4Veterans.org website, learn more about Not On Our Watch at WellnessWorks4Veterans.org,  and donate, so they can continue doing this fantastic work.

Dad Saluting

Dad in the front yard saluting.

And if you know a veteran, or see a veteran (since we celebrate Veteran’s Day today) thank them. To all you veterans out there, Thank You For Your Service! I salute you, and so does my dad!

 

Veggie and Shrimp, Risotto — Delicious and Good for You!

shrimpRisotto is one of those things I don’t usually make because I always worry about the carbs. But, I just made it on Halloween night and it was creamy, delicious heaven. Not only did I not gain an ounce, I actually lost a pound, so go figure! Maybe it was because this had so many veggies in it — spinach, zucchini, mushrooms and leeks — and it was perfect!

And for all my vegetarian friends – it’s vegetarian! You could even make it vegan by eliminating the pat of butter, the cheese and the shrimp and it would still be good. Continue reading

Beware the Transition from Cool to Cute

Fran in green dress

Formerly cool, now “cute” Fran.

This is the second in my series of blog posts about not aging gracefully.

I remember the day I became invisible. I was in New York City. I was 55-years-old, walking down Broadway, and couldn’t get a soul to look at me. Not one person.

My first thought was, Wow, I could rob banks now and it would be months before I’d be captured because I don’t register on anyone’s radar anymore. It could have been liberating, if it hadn’t been so ego deflating. My daughter sometimes complains about men making comments about her and I always tell her, “The only thing worse is when men stop noticing you completely.”

I was almost over being invisible, when I started going from cool to cute. Continue reading

Growing older Gracefully? Nah.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a website where a woman talks about growing older gracefully now that she’s in her 60’s. God bless her, God bless anyone who can be graceful about growing older…I just don’t happen to be one of them.

I look in the mirror and pull my cheeks up a little and think, Yeah, that’s how I should look. But  you can’t walk around looking like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone all the time, so I just dealt with it.

But it does a number on you. I just didn’t feel cute anymore, and when you don’t feel cute, you’re less outgoing because you feel like no one will respond. This was quietly reinforced by the fact that I seem to have turned invisible sometime in my 50’s.

I remember quite vividly when I noticed my new invisibility.

Continue reading

Persimmon Cookies – Fall is in the Air!

group persimmon shot.JPG

Persimmon cookies with cream cheese frosting.

There is nothing like the first cool wave of fall after a long, hot  summer. The day you actually get to wear a sweater or pull out that corduroy jacket  is the best!

God I love and miss those days! We don’t get fall until mid to late November here and that means about six trees in southern California turn red or orange.  But they sure do look great when they turn. I make a point to go for a walk down the one street I know that has autumnal foliage and always kick through the leaves.

I live in an area where persimmons are very popular and I love them, but only after they’ve totally ripened. Continue reading

Uncle Richard’s Meatballs and Sauce!

edited Uncle Richard in sauce stained apron

Uncle Richard and his son, Rich, in their fully equipped basement kitchen – because what’s an Italian home without two kitchens?

Today is my Uncle Richard’s 89th Birthday.  To honor him, I’m posting my most prized possession, my video of him showing me how to make meatballs and sauce. (It’s at the end of this post.) It was the highlight of my year!

Most people’s bucket lists are filled with things like: Stay in a Scottish castle, or dance in the sand in Greece. But at the top of my list has always been: Cook with Uncle Richard and learn the secret to his meatballs and sauce. The opportunity has eluded me for years, but every time I’d visit Pennsylvania, I went in hope it would happen. Continue reading

Judging Others — What’s That Say About Me?

I admit it, I am a judging judger.

I try not to judge people, but there are people who you instantly click with and people you don’t.  Some people I instantly make decisions about, based on what they wear, how they speak, how many nose rings, tattoos or piercings they have, or what their political party is.  It’s not good. Continue reading

My Peanut Butter Phase

When I was young, my mom went through phases in her food. There was the red wine and onion phase, the hot dog phase, the chocolate chip phase and the peanut butter phase. Although the hot dog phase made for some interesting combos, like the hot dog pizza she made once, it wasn’t her most shining culinary moment. But her chocolate chip and peanut butter phases still fill me with longing.

I think I’m in my peanut butter phase right now.  Last blog post was about peanut butter pie with peanut crumble topping. I think I even inspired my brother to make a couple of pies. Thankfully,  this week’s recipe is much simpler. It’s a peanut butter and apricot preserve roll.

Preserves.JPG

My apricot and white nectarine preserves with some labels that were my mom’s. The pen is from Wholey’s Fish Market in Pittsburgh!

I bought a bunch of apricots at Costco the last few weeks and made preserves because they’re so stinking good! I made the lower sugar variety this time and they were every bit as good as the regular preserves. I think 4.5 cups of sugar seems like plenty for 7 jars of preserves, right? Normally apricot preserves take 7 cups of sugar! Holy overload, even for a sugar lover like me!

The preserves were so tasty, it inspired me to make one of my mom’s old favorite recipes.  It’s a great one to make when you’ve made a pie and have leftover pie dough. children love this and can help make it too!

You just take the remaining scraps of dough, squish them together, then roll them out like a pie crust.  Then you spread it with smooth peanut butter and on top of that you spread a thin layer of whatever preserves you like. (I’m a real fan of apricot and I think it tastes the best in this recipe.) Make sure you leave about a half inch all around the edges with no peanut butter or jelly, so you can seal them. Then you start as one end and roll the whole thing up. Once it’s rolled, you dip your finger in water or egg, and run it along the edges and press them together to seal up the dough. You place it on a small cookie sheet and bake it for 20 minutes or until it’s golden brown.   Then you cut it up and try desperately not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Full roll cu.JPGYou could do a whole pie crust if you wanted to get crazy.  Even buy one at the store, if you don’t want to mess with the whole crust making ordeal. But make sure you roll it out a little more because store bought crusts tend to be a little thick.   Then get the kids to spread it with peanut butter and jelly, and you can all roll it up, bake it quickly, and have a simple, yummy summer treat!

Peanut Butter and Apricot Jam Roll-ups.

1 pie crust (bought or homemade)

Enough Laura Scudder’s Smooth Peanut butter to lightly cover the dough – about  1/4 to 3/4 cup (but the amount depends on how much crust you’re covering)

Enough apricot preserves to lightly cover the peanut butter – about 1/4 to 1/3 cup (again that depends on how much crust you’re covering)

Roll out the pie crust so it’s fairly thin, Spread the peanut butter, then the apricot preserves over the crust. Be sure to leave about a half inch with no peanut butter or jelly along the edge.

Starting at one end, roll the pie crust so it becomes one big roll of dough and seal the edges with a little water or raw egg on your finger.

Place the roll on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. For a larger roll made with a whole pie crust and not just scraps, you might need to bake it 30 minutes or more.  Just make sure it’s golden brown.

Eat it warm or cold, it’s great!

Blackberry Pie with Peanut Butter Crumble? – Oh Yes!

Good pie shotWhat pushes a mostly sane woman to wade into a flesh-tearing patch of blackberry brambles? The promise of hot, crisp blackberry pie with peanut butter crust and crumble. Add vanilla ice cream and you have a holy experience.

And I must say thank you to Brian and Pam Ellis, my former next door neighbors, who always let me know when the berries in their yard are ripe for picking. Good neighbors, are a treasure.

fresh berries in basket

Fresh blackberries, (or Marionberries – I think) so worth it!

I’ve written about pie before. This was one of the pies included in my Pies and Virginity blog. But, in retrospect, I think  blackberry pie with peanut butter crust and crumble really deserves its own blog post because it’s a delicious pie, that’s destroyed many a diet. It was pioneered by my mother, and proudly carried on by me.

I may not remember the name of the actress in the movie I saw 20 minutes ago, but I never forget a life-altering food moment. One of them was the time my mom decided to put peanut butter in a crust she was making for a blueberry pie. I tasted it and knew my mom was a food genius, it was that good.

Then, I decided that if a peanut butter, double crust pie was that good, how great would a peanut butter crumble be, especially one with crunchy peanut butter? And if blueberries were good, wouldn’t blackberries be great? That question got answered a few years ago when I made it for a family get together.  Both my brothers, who don’t throw food compliments around liberally, said, “I think this might be the best pie you’ve ever made.”

You can also just make this a crisp, by eliminating the pie crust bottom. It’s also killer good, faster, and a lot less work.

As I’ve said many times, we are all ho’s for blackberry pie and the peanut butter puts a blackberry pie in a whole new category of yum. To make the crust, I just take my regular pie crust before it’s rolled out, put a tablespoon or two of peanut butter in the middle,  fold it over, roll it, and fold it again a few times, then roll it out. It leaves the crust looking swirled with peanut butter.

*Also, make the crust first, then the crumble so it’s easier to assemble quickly. You don’t want to put the berries in the crust too long before you bake it, or it will get soggy.  And bake it closer to the bottom of the oven so the bottom crust gets crisp.

Mary Tunno’s Pie Crust with Peanut Butter Swirl 

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup Butter Flavor Crisco

1/2 cup butter

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. sugar

1/2 to 1 cup very cold whole milk (you can put an ice cube in it to make it colder but remove it before you add the milk)

Mix flour, salt and sugar together then cut in Crisco and butter.  Mix well, it forms small crumbs.  Add enough milk so that dough can be molded into soft balls.  Better that the dough is too soft and sticky than too hard. Once you add the milk and have made about four or five balls, wrap each one in flour coated plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc, and cool it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Then take one of the flattened, cooled pie crusts, roll it slightly, and add one to two tablespoons of creamy peanut butter to it.  Fold it over, roll it out a little,  then fold it over three or four more times. The peanut butter should look like swirls in the crust. Roll it out on a floured board and place it in bottom of a pie pan.  Flute the edges then fill it with berries.

Peanut Butter Crumble

1 cup flour

2 cups whole, uncooked Old Fashioned Quaker Oats

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 stick melted butter (not unsalted)

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (I use Laura Scudder’s)

 

Blackberry Pie with Peanut Butter CrumbleBlackberry crisp close up

6 to 7 cups blackberries or blueberries

1 cup sugar

2 1/2 Tbsp. flour

Mix together the berries, flour and sugar thoroughly, then place them in the bottom peanut butter swirl crust. Sprinkle a light covering of the peanut butter crumble top of the pie. You don’t want too much because the crumble absorbs a lot of the liquid, so you’ll have all crumble and not enough fruit.  (You may need to lay a piece of aluminum foil lightly on top of the pie or crisp, so the crumble doesn’t burn.) Bake at 350 for an hour or more or until you see the pie really bubbling and crust is brown.  Use a pie crust shield to protect crust from burning. And make sure you put a cookie sheet underneath or some aluminum foil to catch the drips!