Tomato Fever

Summer in Pennsylvania meant stepping downstairs to a kitchen table overflowing with tomatoes.  It taught me to both love tomatoes and wonder when they were going to take over the household and squeeze me out of my room.

My father could never plant less than 20 tomato plants. Our cousin Tony would start seedlings and bring them over, then dad would go buy plants, then someone else would bring plants, so every August, tomatoes covered the basement kitchen table. Yes, basement kitchen table, because in our Italian household, one kitchen was never enough.

Even in the last two years of my dad’s life when he couldn’t plant tomatoes or dig anymore, he supervised. He wasn’t strong enough to help, so he stood in the living room’s picture window, looking out across the grassy backyard, watching me digging in his garden. I remember my hands wrapped around the wooden handle of the hoe on a sweltering July afternoon. I felt compelled to weed around all the tomatoes –grabbing the clumps of weeds with my hands and tossing them aside. I was hot, sweaty and exhausted. I  looked up and he was standing there giving me the OK sign with his hand. Nothing pleased him more than seeing his kids work their guts out. Continue reading

Pasta Sundays are Kicking my Butt

I’m a great housewife, if I say so myself. Nothing thrills me more than inviting people for dinner and being hostess for an evening. I love gardening, fixing up houses, even cleaning them. Correction —  I love how I feel when they’re clean — big difference. Having all day to frame my favorite photos and decorate my living room would be a dream for me, but it ain’t happening. Continue reading

Plenty of Fish? We’ll see.

I’ve been fishing this week. Figuratively and literally, and here’s what I know. I don’t like fishing, but I do like fish and that pretty much sums up my life right now.

I finally went to another, less expensive dating website called Plenty of Fish, put pictures up, and coughed up the 38 bucks for two months of torment. (I know, I know, that’s not a good attitude.) Continue reading

I Love Myself…and Pork

I’ve been listening to the little voice in my head for the past couple of weeks.  No, I’m not schizophrenic, (although nothing would surprise me). You probably have  a little voice who says things to you too.  For most of my life, I didn’t even notice her.

But a couple of years ago, I was working with a very astute woman named Barbara, who said something that really made me think, and it’s  stayed with me ever since. Continue reading

Halloween in the ’60s, We Worked Hard for Our Candy!

Andy and Milena

My kids, Andy and Milena way back when.

Kids are so coddled anymore. Halloween used to be a test of your mettle. Now parents go out and buy cute outfits, help their kids get dressed, help with their make-up and follow them along with a flashlight. They check their candy and even force them to say thank you when they’re done.  What have we done to our children? Continue reading

I am a Big Fat Liar

Who doesn't love an accordion-playing skeleton? I have two of these, one is named Bernie and one Bob for my brothers.

What I see when I look at my photos! (Actually, I love this accordion-playing skeleton. I have two — one is named Bernie and one Bob, for my accordion-playing brothers.

I had every intention of posting a picture on Really I did. Then I looked at the pictures my daughter took of me yesterday when I was feeling brave, with a blow dryer and mascara wand standing by,  and I have to tell you, it sobered me right up. Continue reading

New Year Slow-Cooked Pork and Sauerkraut

In Western Pennsylvania, there are traditions you just have to keep.  One is pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. I may not live there currently, but I’ll be damned if I’m giving up this tradition, it’s too good.

It’s said to be good luck to eat pork on New Year’s Day because pigs root forward, so, your year will start in a positive direction, unless you’re a pig. Continue reading

Italian Turkey Meatloaf – Oh Baby Baby

I’m a week behind on my blog because I’ve been working like a maniac on my new internet store. It’s going live this week (if the computer gods are with me) and I can’t wait to share it with you guys! There’s some fun stuff, so don’t do all your holiday shopping yet.

I’ve been cooking this week and have a couple recipes to share. Remember a few months back when I was all-atwitter about the new Italian spice I ordered from a website called Ciao Pittsburgh? The spice is called Aroma and I’ve already gone through one jar. I used it on sliced zucchini, and onions sautéed in olive oil and it was wonderful. Even the teenagers loved it. I sprinkled it on pounded chicken breasts and marinated them in Italian salad dressing – again – very good.

And this week I made turkey meatloaf with it and again — yum. Just so you know, these people don’t pay me to say anything about their product. (Note to self:  Figure out how to get people to pay me to say stuff about their products.)

I just talk about ingredients and products I think are good and I like this spice.  As I said before, it makes my house smell like the Italian store, which I can never get enough of.  I can’t say, sprinkling it in my bra helped my love life, but maybe I just wasn’t around the right guys.

I haven’t tried the picante blend they sell but I’ll bet it’s great on veggies. (Dang, maybe that should have gone in the bra.) Anyway, here’s the turkey meatloaf recipe. It’s healthy, good for you, and tastes great. If you don’t have any Aroma, you can use Italian seasoning as a substitute.

Italian Turkey Meatloaf

Yummy Italian meatloaf that's even great cold!

Yummy Italian meatloaf that’s even great cold!

1 lb ground turkey

1 garlic clove finely minced

2 eggs

¼ cup olive oil

¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

¾ cup Italian style bread crumbs

1 cup oats

2 tsp. Aroma Seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste.

Additional parmesan or mozzarella to sprinkle on top

Mix together all ingredients and place it in a large glass baking pan. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until brown. Pour tomato sauce over and sprinkle with parmesan or grated mozzarella cheese, bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with additional sauce if desired.=

Quick Tomato Sauce

2 cans stewed tomatoes (Kirkland or S&W) processed in a food processor until mostly smooth

2 cloves finely minced garlic

1 Tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup merlot

½ tsp. Aroma Italian seasoning

Saute garlic for about a minute, then add tomatoes, Aroma seasoning and merlot. Stir over low heat about 15 minutes. Pour over meatloaf.

 Sauteed Zucchini and Green onions with Fresh Rosemary

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 small green zucchinis sliced into ½ inch pieces

6 to 8 green onions sliced into 1 inch long pieces

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat olive oil in pan and add zucchini, onions, and rosemary. Saute over high heat until browned but not too soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with turkey meatloaf.

Dreaming of Spring

PA in spring

The front yard in spring with tulips and a few brave dandelions trying to hide from my mother.

If you’re in a state that’s not Florida, California or Hawaii right now, you’re probably dreaming of spring.  I live in California and I apologize up front.  It just happened this way, I didn’t really plan it, so don’t hate me.  I never gloat over the weather because I could be killed at any second by a terrifying mother of an earthquake.  That pretty much evens things out I think.   I’m a Pittsburgher at heart and always will be.

Anyway, I hope spring comes soon for you, but if stinking Punxsutawney Phil is right, it won’t.  So here’s a memory of spring from my childhood in New Brighton, PA, when spring meant fresh air, spring onions and asparagus, and frightening glimpses of my mother’s girdle. Continue reading

Seeing Blessings, Not Curses

My friends, Bob and Debra had everything a year ago. A thriving business, a gorgeous new home, and tons of friends. They still have the friends, the business and the home,  but Bob can only see it from a hospital bed.

ALS is ravaging him. In less than a year, he went from being healthy to looking gaunt, unable to move and barely able to speak. But rather than be its victim, Bob’s using it as a platform to raise money and make a difference, and Debra is sticking right beside him. Horrible illnesses like this are even worse when the people involved are as nice as Bob and Debra.

Here are tiny glimpses into how nice:

Continue reading