Happy Groundhog Day!

I am clearly still getting used to being a full-time writer, but in an effort to not look as lazy and shifless as I clearly am, I am re-posting an old favorite of mine, “The Real Truth About Sex and Love, A Groundhog Day Story.”

I wish you all a Happy Groundhog Day full of fun and surprises, like one of mine was many years ago! Click on this link to find out why:

https://atfranstable.com/2016/02/01/the-real-truth-about-sex-and-love-a-groundhog-day-story/

My First Christmas Alone

Most of you will read this and think, “Oh God no! Fran had to spend a Christmas alone?!!!” I didn’t have to, I chose to, and actually, it was pretty wonderful. (Especially since hazelnut thumbprints were involved.)The kids and I celebrated on the 23rd with dinner out and gift giving, so when they left on the 24th, I was OK. (If they hadn’t celebrated with me first, I don’t think I’d have felt as magnanimous.) I had a party to attend and new pajamas to sleep in on Christmas Eve, a DVD waiting with eight – yes eight, English movies to watch, so I was set.

This was after a week of maniacal shopping, sending packages, and a little baking, but not nearly as much as I usually do. Even so, I was really ready to relax.

I went to the party, came home, slipped into my new PJ’s and woke up Christmas morning perfectly happy. I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, so I had a leisurely morning latte, read the paper for the first time in over a month, walked Topper,  went through receipts, then ordered a pizza with exactly what I like (pepperoni and mushrooms) had a salad, ate  a See’s pecan turtle and a lemon cheesecake bar, and a hazelnut thumbprint or two, listened to Christmas music, basked in the beauty of my not-dead-yet-tree, watched a movie, and relaxed.

Honestly, I think some people can be lonely in a crowd, and some are perfectly content at home alone, even on Christmas Day. Not that I want to do it every year, but it was comforting, relaxing and felt good.

hazelnut thumbprint.JPG

As for the hazelnut thumbprints I tried n my last post.  they turned out wonderfully. I would have eaten more of them if my daughter hadn’t beaten me to them.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and that 2017 brings each of us the fortitude to accept and embrace everything that comes our way — even a Christmas alone…and the energy to try even more cookie recipes.

As you may have noticed, I’ve not been able to put out a blog a week lately. I’m still regrouping and will figure out a rhythm as soon as the holidays are over. Thanks, as always, for reading! You are the best! Happy 2017!

I Want to Bake Christmas Cookies

For eight years, I wanted nothing more than a full time job so I could live like a normal human and not worry 24 hours  a day.

Now I have a full-time job and I’d really like to blog and bake cookies, but I’m so pooped by the time I get home, get something to eat and clean up, I don’t have time or the energy. I also want to finish decorating the tree, buy people gifts and send lovely packages – we’ll see how much of that gets done.

I’m planning a huge intake of caffeine this week so I can whip through the decorating, cookies and packages and collapse in a lump  on the couch with a hot toddy maybe by the 24th. So far, I got the house decorating done, the tree is up, but still in need of ornaments and I have bought 1.5 gifts.

When you’re a kid, all you can think about at Christmas is the presents. When you’re a female adult, all you can think about is what you probably won’t get done in time.

I’ve been itching to bake Thumbprint Cookies. I love Thumbprints. I learned to make them in seventh grade. Wilma Heiberger was my partner in Home Economics and we had a great time dropping the balls of dough from as high as we could reach so they made a big splash into the cups of egg white to coat them before we rolled them in nuts.  This did not please our Home Ec teacher, Miss Hartley. Do kids even have Home Ec classes anymore? Probably not.

I also love baking this time of year because it reminds me of the hours I spent at our dining room table baking with my mother.  The clear plastic cover over the tablecloth was dusted in flour every December, as I helped Mom bake and get ready for Christmas. Man, what I would give to have one more evening of baking with her.

One year we were baking her favorite, Banana Cookies. They’re a filled cookie that’s very time intensive. You make the dough, then the filling, then fill them, roll them, bake them and ice them.  We’d already made several dozen and she was tired that night.  There was a fist sized mound of dough left and a good cup of filling left, which would have made at least another dozen more cookies.

I’d walked away from the table to take the cookies out of the oven and came back to my mother laughing so hard, the table was shaking.  She looked up at me repentantly and showed me the  gigantic cookie she’d made with the rest of the dough and filling. Tears rolling out of her eyes with laughter, she said, “Don’d a worry Frenzy, your fodder (father) will eat it.”

Cookbook.JPGBefore she passed away she told me about a book she got from Hershey’s loaded with recipes for chocolate cookies and cakes in it. She wanted to bake them with me. I wish I’d been able to do that, but we never got the chance.

So, if you’re lucky enough to still have your mom, or grandma, or aunt or anyone who wants to bake with you, do it! You never know how much time you have left.

This year,  in honor of mom,  I’m trying a twist on the original Thumbprint recipe, making mine dipped in toasted hazelnuts with a dollop of chocolate hazelnut Nutella in the center. I think Mom would approve. (The originals have walnuts on the outside and either icing or jam in the middle. I love them with icing too.) I’ll post photos once I bake them.

I also want to bake Mini Carrot Cakes and Mini Cheesecakes and Brownies with Chocolate Ganache, Seven Layer Cookies, Russian Teacakes, Almond Cookies, Peanut Squares, Lemon Ricotta Cookies, Lemon Cheesecake Bars, Hershey Kiss Cookies, and my mom’s favorites, Banana Cookies, which I may try next week…if the espresso holds out.  Wish me luck.

Hazelnut Thumbprints

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup butter (softened)

1 tsp. vanilla

2 egg yolks

2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2 egg whites slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups finely chopped hazelnuts (I get the dry roasted ones from Trader Joes)

Cream the sugar and butter, then add the vanilla and egg yolks. Mix together the flour and salt.  Combine the flour with the butter mixture.

Roll the dough into small balls, then dip them into the slightly beaten egg whites, then roll them into the hazelnuts.  Place them on a baking sheet and press the centers to form an indentation.

Bake at 350 for 8  minutes,  remove from heat, reset indentation and bake for five more minutes. Remove from heat and once they’re cooled, drop Nutella into the indentation. You can sprinkle them lightly with powdered sugar when they’re done also.

 

 

 

 

Winner of the Cutthroat Tunno Pumpkin Pie Contest and a Killer Pecan Pie Recipe!

Yesterday was my sister-in-law Patty’s birthday. She is one of the nicest humans on the face of the earth and watching her raise her kids showed me the investment of time and love that goes into raising children.  Why do you think I put it off for so long?

I mention her because after many years of either not placing or not baking, she is finally the winner of the CTPPC, and it’s about damned time! Continue reading

And the Mystery Food is:_________

Well, I soaked it and soaked it. And after a lot of scraping, I uncovered what is definitely an apricot pit. the-pitSo, since several of you answered correctly, I have to send the five dollars to the first person who guessed correctly, Nicol Zanzarella.

So Nicol, I will either mail it to you, or hand it to you next time we meet for coffee because a promise is a promise. Who knew a person could have so much fun with food gone bad? Continue reading

Five Bucks to Anyone Who Can Identify This

It’s the week before Thanksgiving and two days ago I was doing what I do every week before Thanksgiving — cleaning out all the forgotten crap in my fridge, so I can fill it with new crap that I’ll forget about in another 1.5 weeks.

rotten

I put it on the nice table runner to dress it up a little.

I came across this beauty of a…well, I’m not sure exactly what it is.  I’m thinking maybe a desiccated apricot…but I’m not sure. So, if you have any ideas, please respond. Continue reading

A Pie Contest? What Was I Thinking?

I work four jobs and do voiceovers on the side, as well as teach voiceover classes, so of course, when my friend Allegra said, “Hey KCRW is having a pie contest, why don’t you sign up?” I said,”I’ll think about it.”  The correct response should have been, “No, are you insane? I have enough on my plate!”  But I must be the one who’s deranged because I signed up.

latte

Miracle latte

So, I found myself in the kitchen at 6:30 this morning, peeling apples and stressing out over pie crust. I must have been stressed because the entire morning went by and I only took about six sips of my daily latte — the latte I normally can’t function without.  I don’t know where you go to register miracles happening, but this morning’s latte miracle is one for the books.

I decided to make cranberry-apple pies because I love them. I think their flavor is even better than plain apple and they’re very autumnal. If you know me at all, you know I am a ho for autumn.

I bought all fresh ingredients, beautiful huge Granny Smith Apples and a few yellow delicious, in a nod to my mom. She always used yellow delicious in her pies.  I also got out all my utensils, including my secret weapon, my mom’s rolling pastry cutter. I wanted her juju with me as I baked.

Mom's pastry cutter.JPG

Mom’s pastry cutter

On a side note, last night as I was taking Topper on a walk, I was missing Mom and just then happened to look down. On the sidewalk was a lottery ticket someone had thrown away. It was folded in half.  When I bent down to pick it up, it was a “Price is Right,” lottery ticket.  (If you don’t know my history, check out that “Price is Right,” link and you’ll see why this was an omen.) I took it home and entered it in the second chance lottery online.  I figure, if mom pointed it out, maybe it’s a winner. I am also taking that as an omen that the rest of my life will be easier than the last 25 years.

Back to the pies –normally, with the exception of the Annual Tunno Family Cutthroat Thanksgiving Pie Competition, I am not a fan of competitions, especially when it comes to food. I think food is an art form, so how do you judge whether one piece of art is better than another?  Plus, losing is not my favorite thing.  But anytime you lose, you always learn something, so I’m sure it’s character building.

But, that’s also fear talking.  I need to go in and boldly think my pie is the most awesome thing out there, and maybe I’ll have a chance. That’s how my mom lived and I think she was right. Plus, it never hurts to put yourself out there, so what the heck. Besides it might be nice to meet other crazy people who would rather spend their free time in a kitchen than anywhere else.

pies.JPG

My contenders in the apple cranberry division

So, I’m waiting for Allegra to pick me up. I will share the results with you when I get back. Wish me luck.

 

 

Mi Dispiace, il Pranzo Era il Mio (I’m Sorry, The Lunch Was Mine)

I have been torturing myself with Duolingo lately.  It’s a website where you can learn another language. For the past 40 years I have been trying (clearly not hard) to learn Italian.

This week possession has been making me miserable because I can’t tell the difference between him and her.  I’m learning handy phrases like: “Il gatto beve il suo latte,”
which means the cat drinks his/or her milk. This is very confusing to the cat and me.  I am also learning things like, “Lo squalo mangia pesce,” which means the shark eats fish. These phrases will both come in handy when I cat sit for Italians or visit Sea World with my relatives.

Tonight I was learning, “Io mangio i tuoi panini,” which means, I eat your sandwiches. That got me thinking about sandwiches. Then I was talking to my brother, Bernie and we started reminiscing about the sandwiches my mom used to make for our school lunches. (No Tunnos can ever have a conversation without the subject turning to food – a scientific fact.) Continue reading

Rocco’s Italian Deli – My New Home Away From Home

Outside front of deliLast week my friend, Denise and I met at Rocco’s, her favorite Italian deli on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. When I walked in, Denise was locked in conversation with a sweet, older Italian man, named Rocco, who was sitting beside her. Yes, this was THE Rocco.

Rocco

Rocco with an adoring customer who I couldn’t fit in this space.

If Denise and I were stronger, we would have kidnapped him – that’s how cute he was. He told us about his life, when he immigrated to the U.S.,  the different jobs he had, and more. His memory was remarkable — and he is no spring chicken! Then, his wife came in and was just as cute as he was. Then I met his daughter, Rosamarie and…well it was pretty much a love fest. I didn’t get to meet his son, Francesco, but I’m sure I would have loved him too. And, I haven’t even gotten to the food, which was delicious.

In a city as big as Los Angeles, usually, the best you can hope for in a restaurant is good food, served to you fast, and maybe with a smile. But I felt like I was in my parents house at Rocco’s, and that was the thing that kept me beaming all the way home. Even though Rocco occasionally uses a cane, he kept getting up and offering to fill our cups, or bus our table. His daughter did the same. The hospitality was not forced, it was real and we had such a wonderful afternoon there, we hated to leave. Continue reading

Working Hard at Life

You probably said, “Hey, Friday came and went,  Fran should have posted her blog, only to find nothing. If you’re like my old boss at Warner Lambert, Jim Bair, you’re probably saying, “Fran, you either have it done, or you have an excuse, and if you have an excuse, I don’t want to hear it.” The good news is, Jim (mostly) broke me of that bad habit with that very effective saying. I’m grateful to him every day because he taught me discipline is very important, and gave me a nifty saying I was able to torment my own kids with. One of these days I’ll track him down and thank him personally.

He was also one of the first people to look at me as I was pretending to play the keyboard on the dashboard of my company car and say, “You’re nuts, you should be in radio.” He was right, I loved being on the radio, it was perfect for me.

In the meantime, I have an excuse — sorry Jim. I’ll explain what I’m doing instead of writing.  I’m revamping this site, so that you, my sweet readers, can access recipes more easily. Many of you have said it’s difficult to find recipes because they all start with stories, and I agree. I can’t expect you to remember what wild tangent I went off on before I got to banana bread. (Ellen Degeneres is the wild tangent.)

Currently, all you have to do is go to the search bar and type in what you’re looking for and it will pop up. But, I want to make it even easier and list recipes under easy to find categories. I’ll also have them on cards so you can just click on the card and the recipe easily prints, with or without the photos.

But to do that, I have to go back and put every recipe I’ve blogged about for the past two and a half years into a different format and that takes time. I also almost have my recording system back up and running, so I will be able to record my blog posts again.  (Had to buy a new computer and get new software, which I’m still figuring out because technology makes my head pound.) Plus, I do work four jobs, so things get a little hectic. When this is all done, I plan to drink an entire bottle of Prosecco.

So, in lieu of a new blog post, I’m re-posting an old favorite one about chin hairs and my mother. It’s called, “Pluck Em Oud!”  Just click on that pink-ish purple hyperlink and the magic of the internet will connect you.