Centodue Anni!

Bernie's Lemoncello.JPG

Bernie’s Limoncello

 

My brother Bernie called me last night. He said he was making Limoncello. I love that he and my brother Bob still do that kind of thing. It’s proof they haven’t lost their Italian-ness. The label with my dad’s photo on it is one of Bob’s wine labels.

Bernie was peeling lemons as we talked, and I wanted to watch, so we Face-timed, and it was almost as good as being there. I watched his big hands peeling the lemons and it was like sitting in the kitchen with both of my parents at once. My dad’s strong bricklayer hands combined with my mom always making something in the kitchen.

IMG_2759

Lemon Cheesecake Squares

 

He asked me if I remembered that today was my dad’s birthday, and, of course, I did. My dad would have been 102 today. We always used to say Cent’anni when we toasted, hoping he would make 100 years…but, sadly he did not.  But, I’ll toast to 102 (Centodue) today in his honor.

I’ll bet Bernie was making Limoncello to honor dad, because my dad loved lemony things. Bernie and I got talking about lemons and Limoncello and recipes (we cannot talk without recipes coming up)  and how Lemon  Meringue Pie, Lemon Cake, Lemon Squares, Lemon Ricotta Cookies, and all things lemon were my dad’s favorites. Then we veered toward Chicken Piccata…and that’s when I realized I was going to have to share some lemony recipes and a story of torture you may not have heard yet.

I was an expert at tormenting my dad when I was a child. He loved lemony things but couldn’t eat an actual lemon. If you asked him to, his face would pucker up in such a sour expression.  I used enjoy torturing him by fishing lemons out of the iced tea and eating them in front of him just to get him to pucker up. He always did it, as if on cue and I would laugh hysterically.

Children are evil that way.

I miss that sweet man every day, and even though our conversations toward the end were mostly repetition, there was something reassuring about hearing him say the same things he said time and again like, “Don’t worry, we’ll get through it,” or “Stay tough,” or “Keep your nose to the grindstone, you can do it.”

My dad was the taskmaster. When there was work to be done, you did it until it was finished. Period. Not even a discussion.

Mom was fun personified, which is why I am such a mess. Half the time I’m disciplined and half the time I just want to have fun.  This does not make for a simple career path. But it’s good for blog writing, which I consider 99 percent fun.

So, Happy Birthday Dad. You are always with me in my thoughts, actions, and DNA. You’ve made me at least half of what I am today and I am so grateful for you. You are the reason anything ever gets accomplished in my life. I love you forever.

Mom, I love you forever too, but for very different reasons.

Single Lemon ricotta

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

To honor Dad, here is Bernie’s Limoncello Recipe – (if you make it – just remember one ounce will knock you out like a prizefighter). Also a link to my Really Good and Easy Lemon Cheesecake Squares Recipe, a link to my Lemon Ricotta Cookies Recipe, and a link to a Williams Sonoma Chicken Piccata Recipe, which is absolutely delicious! I used it when I catered a wedding last January and it was a huge hit.

Bernie’s Limoncello

Peel only the yellow off 14 lemons

Place the peels in a large glass container

Add 2 liters of grain alcohol

Add two cinnamon sticks (these are optional)

Let the mixture sit for 30 days.

Then strain it into a clear container and add 2 liters of distilled water and sugar to taste.  put a cork in it and put it in the freezer before serving it.

Fran’s Really Good and Easy Lemon Cheesecake Squares

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Williams Sonoma Chicken Piccata

 

 

A Pretty Perfect Weekend

Well, I seem to be surviving the departure of my daughter.

At first, I wondered if I’d ever be alone because right after my daughter left, my son came and visited for a couple nights, but I was alone last weekend, which left time for an old friend to come and stay over and for me to finally clean my daughter’s room the way I’ve been dying to clean it for — oh about four years.

So, after maniacal cleaning on Saturday, I got to relax with Allegra. Then we got up, read the paper, had lattes, went to breakfast and I came home to a house that was still clean. I was so happy, I left to go to the mall and bought a couple little things I needed.

Then I went to see the movie, Victoria and Abdul, and for the first time in my life I actually admitted (without someone coercing me)  that I am a senior citizen to get the stinking discount. Senior citizen is defined as 60 at this theater — what kind of crap is that? It was always 65 and now suddenly, timed to make me feel older and more decrepit, it’s 60. C’est la vie. My minor irritation was overruled by my happiness at saving three bucks.

Then I got myself popcorn and thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Afterward I came home to a house that was still clean, and made some wonderful pasta for myself because, hey, it was Sunday!

If you’re noticing a theme here, it’s because I’ve spent so much time cleaning that I never really had much time to do what I wanted to do, but I can see things leveling out now and I’m very OK with it.

Plus, I have a wonderful, simple pasta dish for you to try.  It was pasta with a fresh tomato sauce with shallots, fresh basil and a little cream and mushrooms. I was going to just have the mushrooms as a side dish at first, but they were a great addition to the pasta, so I went for it. It’s good either way. I remember watching someone make this simple sauce probably 30 years ago and I remembered it for its simplicity and its wonderful flavor.

Then I got to sit, eat and watch Netflix. Relaxation in my clean house was so great, I sat there beaming. It reminded me of being in my 20’s, making myself a great meal, then soaking in the bathtub with a glass of wine and thinking, man, life is great.

It was then, and still is.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato, Shallots, Basil and CreamGreat cu pasta

1 large red tomato

2 medium shallots thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup whipping cream

6 medium basil leaves chopped

6 large mushrooms

2 Tbsp. butter for the mushrooms

1 Tbsp. Fresh parsley finely chopped

2 Tbsp. port wine

1/2 lb. pasta of your choice

Salt and pepper

Fill a pot with water for pasta and heat it to boiling. While the pasta water is heating, heat another small pot with water and let it boil.  Take the large tomato and submerge it in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Remove the tomato and peel it. Then cut the tomato in half – width wise and squeeze the seeds out. Once the seeds are mostly out, chop the tomato into small pieces, less than an inch in size and set them aside.

In a saute pan heat the butter until melted and add the mushrooms until they have given off their water. Add the port wine and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add parsley and set aside.

Next, heat the oil and butter.  Add the shallots and saute until translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes, mix together with the shallots and saute for about 5 minutes. The tomato will give up some juice. When the juice has cooked down a bit, smash some of the tomatoes with your fork and add the chopped basil, then add the whipping cream and cook 2 to 3 minutes.

While you are making the sauce,  boil the pasta until done.  When cooked, drain most of the pasta and put it into the pan with the sauce, add the mushrooms and mix together thoroughly.  If you like your pasta with lots of sauce, then don’t add it all. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano and chow down!Good CU pasta.JPG

 

 

 

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 Match.com. 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.