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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good bye Tasty Tuesday 2013!

 So, I guess you've been wondering where I have been.....or not.
Hopefully, you were way too busy making merry to wonder where I have been. 
Please accept my deep apology for not wishing you a very Merry Christmas.
Here in Judiland, we made the best of it all.
My dear father was brought into the hospital with some critical health issues the Monday before Christmas.  So, needless to say, the past week or so has been spent dealing with those things.
There I was--frantically trying to finish up my shopping at the mall when the call came.  All of a sudden, finishing up my shopping was the least of my concerns.  The menus, the gifts, the wrapping and everything else fell by the waist side as I high tailed it out of the mall and headed to the hospital.  Without going into any major details--let me just say that we are all hanging in there.   We are all a little tattered and torn and extremely exhausted.  But, I am thankful that amid all of that, we did manage to find ways to celebrate the love of family and the true meaning of the season.  And, yes, we even had some fun.  And, yes, gifts appeared under the tree and food appeared on the table.  This year, more than any other year, having that fun and getting those gifts under the tree and that food on the table took more than physical effort--it took some major emotional effort.  And, it also took some serious scheduling to make sure that Christmas and all the merry-making happened.   In very unJudilike fashion, I decided to back off all the holiday parties and just focus on my father and my own little family.  My house was full and I needed that comfort.
As I look back, it all seems like a blur.  And, it wasn't because of the martinis....(but they sure helped!)
Although I entered the holidays a bit saddened by some hurts, those hurts took a back seat when my father took ill.  Funny how we can find ourselves in one place one moment and then in an entirely different place when the really important things happen.   
As I close out 2013, I have a brand new appreciation for what is important to me and how truly human I am.  I can't be everything to everyone, I can't change people and I certainly can't expect others to appreciate who I am.  In many ways, it's a freeing feeling.  In other ways, I am saddened.
I don't expect you to understand what I am talking about.....just to know that I was deeply hurt and that even though I felt completely devastated by that hurt, it became much less important when the call came about my father....
In the spirit of renewal and to welcome the new year, I am going to take hold of these feelings and go forth in a way that honors these moments.  Sometimes life has a way of slapping us upside the head when we really need slapped upside the head.  I am not making any sweeping new year resolutions....I'm just saying that I heard the message that the universe was sending me and I'm hoping that I really heard it this time.....
But, that's not what I am here to talk about.....just thought I'd mention it. 
However, it does provide a good segway into the recipe I am about to share with you on this last day of 2013.  It's a recipe that smacks of make-do-in-the-midst-of-being-slapped-upside-the-head.
As you know, I am all about planning menus and figuring out recipes way before they have to hit the table.  Unfortunately, I never plan for life getting in the way.  I'm silly like that.... 
Today, I am sharing a recipe that just happened because it needed to happen and it turned out so phenomenal that I should trademark it.  But, I don't have the time.  Instead, I'm sharing it with you as my way of telling you that you don't have to plan menus or have perfectly taste tested recipes to put together a meal that is truly astounding.  Like life---sometimes recipes just happen.....

Pantry and Fridge Pasta with Artichokes, Lemon and Other Stuff
This recipe came completely from what I had in my pantry and fridge. 
1 pound of thinly sliced chicken breasts, shaken in a bag with flour, pecorino cheese, some garlic powder, salt and pepper --- lightly sautee in butter and olive oil then set aside (use a deep pan...not a pot!)...about 3-5 minutes on each side
In the same pan---after removing the chicken--put 1 jar of Williams Sonoma Artichoke and Pecorino Saute Simmer Sauce   (I bought this stuff a few months ago on a whim....what an ingenious whim that was!)
Add--a can of artichoke quarters (drained), juice of one lemon, some lemon zest, 2 nice size dollops of whole milk ricotta, a handful of pecorino, about 4 oz of white wine, about 4 oz of chicken this point, I recommend you drink rest of the wine in the bottle....
Simmer it all for about 10 minutes
In the meantime, boil water for some good pasta (about 1/2 pound) dente 
Dice up the chicken into bite size pieces
Add chicken to pan with sauce and throw in some juilienned basil
Cover and simmer for about 5-8 minutes
When pasta is done....drain it and throw it in the pan with the sauce and chicken and toss very  to coat.
Throw in some more pecorino and serve.
Then, open another bottle of wine.  

I am not sure what 2014 holds for me.  But, one thing is for certain---I am going to make this more often!  

All the best to all of you for a delicious ending to 2013!

Thank You for sharing my journey......

Did I mention that I have another round of house guests arriving in about 6 hours?
Anyone have  a few good recipes for my pity party? 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

'Tis Christmas Eve.......

Welcome to the Christmas Eve edition of Tastey Tuesday Recipe Exchange.
Today I am going to share  MAIN COURSE and DESSERT COURSE recipes.
At this point, I'm pretty sure your  Christmas menus are all planned and your grocery shopping is done.  The very last thing you need is to fall head-over-heels in love with a new main course.  That's something that would happen to me and I'd make myself crazy over it all...
I can see it wake up on Christmas Eve morning thinking you are going to make X for dinner and then you find a brand new recipe that you decide you must have......before you know it, your life is topsy turvy and your family is pretty sure you've gone half mad.  You're pushing and shoving through the throngs of shoppers at the grocery store and  you're flinging crown roasts and brussel sprouts with the procrastinating crowd..... my Christmas gift to you.....I am not going to send you there.
I have complete faith that your menus are perfect and you don't need to even consider any other recipes this holiday season.
But, since I have to be true to my 2013 Tastey Tuesday Recipe Exchange commitment, I am still going to share a MAIN COURSE recipe and a DESSERT COURSE recipe......
 But, I am going to make you promise that you aren't going to attempt to make these today, tomorrow or any other day this week.   As a matter of fact, I am going to demand that you save these recipes for a day when you are scratching your head wondering what you will serve for a special dinner......

 Who wants to serve chicken on Christmas anyway?  Right??
 Even though this is an excellent recipe that commands amazing reviews from your family and/or guests---it's best saved for a nice family Sunday supper or a lovely evening dinner with friends.   It's very easy to make and makes a great presentation.  The last time I made this, I opted for boneless chicken breasts so that things would go quicker.   Either way, the flavoring is excellent!

Here's an lovely, taste-too-good-to-be-true side dish to serve along with this chicken recipe.......

Butternut Squash with Spinach, Raisins, and Pine Nuts

I am so serious when I tell you that this side dish is absolutely impressive.  If you do nothing else, be sure to make this one soon......but, of course......not today or tomorrow.  

Before I share a dessert course, I have to own up to something---I really don't bake.  Nope, I'm not a fan of baking.  Every once in awhile, I will try my hand at it.  But, if truth be told---I know some excellent bakeries nearby and I know some awsome bakers so if I really want baked goods---I know how to pick up a phone and I'm not afraid to do it! With that being said, however, I do have a few stand-by desserts that I offer when I want to make the dessert myself.   Sometimes I just love to cover the table in fruits and candies, offer some liquer laced concoctions and call it a day.  Other times, I really do want to try my hand at a recipe I am intrigued by and doesn't require baking skills.  That's what happened with this particular recipe that I am sharing with you today.   I don't even remember how I came upon it but it spoke to me when I found it.  So, I tried it on my taste testers and before I knew it.....I was dreaming up ways to serve it to guests.  It's always a huge hit.....sometimes I even get a standing ovation.......


Sweet Roasted Grapes

Serve these syrupy grapes for dessert---I have spooned them over a good quality vanilla bean ice cream and I also put them over marscapone---both renditions had diners squeal with delight.  My girlfriend reported that she put them over pound cake and topped them with real whipped cream and got rave reviews.  These are so easy and different, you really will be thrilled.  My only tip is to make sure you watch these very carefully and stir them often.   You can use red or green grapes.....
By the way---I bet these would just be stunning over a log of honey goat cheese....OH YUM!  
Here's the easy directions: 
Grease an ovenproof skillet with 2 tablespoons butter. Add 1 pound seedless grapes and 3/4 cup walnuts; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Roast about 25 minutes in a 500 degree F oven. Transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Simmer the juices with 1 tablespoon honey on the stove until syrupy, 6 to 7 minutes. Off the heat, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of pepper. Pour the syrup over the grapes.

May your Christmas Eve be delicious and blessed.......

Friday, December 20, 2013


Only 5 more shopping days!  
This gift only takes 4 days!!!  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


What's any holiday in an Italian household without pasta?
Hey, we even do pasta on Thanksgiving.......!
In fact, I'm pretty sure Italians consider it a sin not to eat pasta on a holiday.
So, I come by my pasta affliction very honestly. 
But, don't blame my Italian blood for my pasta love.
I've got friends and family from all bloodlines that swear that pasta is their favorite dish.
Considering that pasta is such a universally loved dish, it's truly hard to come up with a new and exciting pasta dish to share.   But, since everyone loves it, it's a great choice to entertain with. 
And, let's face it---I only have 60 million in my arsenal.....!!  
So, when I was thinking about what pasta recipe I was going to share today, I decided that I should share something that is both yummy  and easy.  And, since that was EXACTLY what I was looking to serve this past Sunday when we had some guests for dinner----I pulled out this recipe.  It's a recipe I've used time and time again and it's always met with ooohs and aaahs.  And, this past Sunday was no exception.   I served it  as the main course with a  simple Italian cheese, nuts and cured meats tray,  a beautiful bottle of an Italian Barbera that we toted home from a wine tasting event earlier this year (highly recommend this wine!),  a  crisp caesear salad with achovies and garlic bread.  We followed it up with hot chocolate laced with pepermint schnapps or espresso with Franjelica and store bought cannolis. It was the perfect holiday time dinner--relaxing, festive and delicious. 
BTW--- I have also served this pasta as a course in a multi course meal as well.   It's loved either way.....

Sunday dinner table setting......

Pasta With Pistachio Cream Sauce
I make this pretty much as the recipe dictates.  To make it a bit more festive, I sometimes add one can of diced and drained San Marzano tomatoes.   I have added chicken to this in the past. It's super easy, it looks pretty and it is so scrumptious!   Do yourself a favor and buy already shelled pistachios to make it even easier on yourself!!! 

Come back next week  for the MAIN COURSE and DESSERT........

Monday, December 16, 2013


That's what this week is all about. 
This past weekend, I went through the motions of making merry---I kicked off my Christmas shopping, we had a lovely dinner at one of our favorite places, we made our traditional trek to the Strip District markets to buy seafood, cheeses and other holiday essentials, we had morning cocktails at a place we love, I found my favorite-ever-smelling candle, we went to a beautiful party where I ate clams casino (YUMMY!) for the first time ever, I finished up the majority of my Christmas decorating, I cooked up a wonderful Sunday supper and I had some endearing conversations with both of my children...
Yet, underlying all of that was a sense of disappointment and hurt that I just couldn't shake.
This week, I plan to shake it......
I deserve to enjoy my blessings instead of focusing on the one thing that is breaking my heart.  I can't let that happen......
I apologize that I am alluding to something and not actually saying exactly what the issue is.  Let me assure you---the issue that is sapping my joy is not life threatening.  In fact, sometimes when I think of why I'm sulking so much, I find myself embarrassed by how shallow I must be and I am ashamed that I don't have it in me to deal with it without becoming a blubbering baby....
I have it in me to make my MISSION MERRY possible!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rocking around the Christmas Tree!

Yeah, that's exactly what I have been about you?  Hmmmm......
Love this tree!  It's at my favorite little wine bar in Dayton OH......

With Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on our doorstep, I am starting to get a wee bit jingled....
Yes, the Christmas season is upon us and with it comes a very unique brand of  stress....
With all of the fun aspects of the merry making and the wrapping and the shopping and the preparing and the fa-la-la-la-laing, there's also the notsofun aspects of  the merry making and the wrapping and the shopping and the preparing and the fa-la-la-la-laing.
It's mostly a result of the unreasonable expectations we place on ourselves.
Who do I think I am?  Super Woman?   
The truth of the matter is--I get as tired as the next guy.
And, sometimes I can get just a wee bit....well.....crazed.
And, when I am so exhausted I am close to tears and when I get crazed about holiday things.....I get angry with myself.  
I really want to live my inner merry this time of the year. 
I don't want anything to be a chore or to bring me down.
But, because I don't want any of that to happen....when it does....I find myself totally crippled by feelings of stress and angst. 
Thus, the circle of even more craziness begins. 
It's not a nice place to be.....
You see---I haven't touched my shopping, I still have one huge tree and the bathrooms to finish decorating, I haven't made my grocery lists and the major cleaning is not even on the schedule. top it off.....I'm finding myself hurt and disappointed that my dearly-held and carefully thought-out plans have been casually tossed aside and that the alternate arrangements that have been thrust upon me feel notsonice.  And, so, I sulk and cry and tear-up at the drop of the hat.
  And, that's all I am going to say about that....  
EXCEPT........perhaps that's why I haven't touched my shopping, I still have one huge tree and the bathrooms to finish decorating, I haven't made my grocery lists and the major cleaning is not even on the schedule.
Yes, I am excellent at self-analysis.  

Like most things....I shall overcome my hurt and disappointment and I shall make the best of it and I shall go forward.
Christmas Eve and Christmas will it always does.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bring on the next course!!!!

Today, it's all about the soup and salad course......
Or, maybe a meal made up of soup and salad!   

Do you make traditional foods on holidays?
Yeah, me too.
In Judiland, there's a steady stream of holiday foods that begin with Thanksgiving and go straight to New Year's Day.  
Come January 2, I am pretty sick and tired of it all and ready to put it all away for another year.
That's not to say I don't like the foods......I have just had enough of them. 
And, so has my family.  
Last year, my daughter accused me of having  a mussels problem.
It all started with my decision to make mussels for the first time for our traditional Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.   
Before I knew it, I had loaded up on pounds and pounds of mussels....testing different recipes and force feeding my family several meals of mussels.
When I finally hit that one  magical mussel recipe, I was smitten with mussels. 
My family.....notsomuch.  Well, they liked them but were not crazy about a steady diet of them.
But, I didn't care.  
I was madly in love with mussels.  Come over for drinks....and mussels.  Stop over for some holiday cheer....and mussels.  Girls night in....and mussels.  We're going to have a light lunch....mussels.    You get the picture.... 
Finally, by January 3....with arms raised in family declared Judiland a mussels-free zone until December 2013.
Well, here we are, dear's December 2013!!  
With my mussels cravings raging and my menu planning on full tilt..... I've been hot on the mussels trail again this year.  
Although I'm keeping that beloved mussels recipe (from Ina Garten...linked above) on the menu this Christmas Eve, I've been busily trying to unearth what other things I can do with mussels.   So, as you can imagine, I've been going hog wild on the internet seeking out recipes, talking to friends about their mussels recipes and combing cook books in search of more things to do with mussels.   After all this research, it's pretty clear to me that mussels are best steamed....regardless of which recipe you use.  So, I think I'm just going to stick with the recipe I fell in love with last year.  Maybe I'll tweak it, maybe I won't.  Stay tuned on that.  In any case....if you were expecting a soup or salad mussels recipe ain't going to happen.   But, my mussels story has a silver lining....
And, that silver lining is that during my forays into mussel research, I came upon a plethora of other wonderful sounding recipes that I just knew I had to try out.  One of those recipes was this amazing soup that I just knew I had to it is.....

Creamy Artichoke Soup  (click there for the recipe)

Let me be clear about this is damn good.  So far, I have made this soup twice.  The second time I added some red pepper flakes and I think I like it better.  My taste testers also preferred the addition of a little spice.  So, if you like spice....shake away!   I think this is the perfect soup course for a bigger meal because it's  light and creamy and it looks lovely in a pretty little bowl.  But, it can also be a great accompaniment to a soup and salad meal....pour it into a big bowl and treat yourself!  I'm planning to serve this soup for an evening when we have some neighbors in for a soup night during the holidays.  A soup night is perfect for winter entertaining....especially when you are having your neighbors in....because they walked to your house.  Soup can take the chill off deliciously! I will more than likely serve 3 soups but I have to be honest, I'm most excited about this one!!  Although I haven't quite nailed down the third soup I will be making,  I know for absolute sure that I will be making Mushroom-Leek soup with Brie Croutons as my second offering.   This soup has been on my rotation for holiday and winter entertaining meals for well over a decade......ever since I found it in a Bon Apettit magazine.  It is always a huge fact, I always have the recipe printed out because I know people will ask for it.....

And, now.....for the salads.....

Interestingly, I am known here in Judiland for my salads. My queen of salad reign has been going on for years and years. With all the salads I have made in my lifetime, you would think I would have never had  a weight problem.  Haha.  Therein lies the irony.  The salads I am known for are not exactly super healthy. We may all fool ourselves that just because they are salads, they are healthy diet foods! Notsotrue.  Sure, I use as many leafy greens and fresh veggies as the next guy but that's where the healthiness stops.  But, I have to admit, I come by my salad notoriety honestly.  I spend a lot of time looking for salad recipes and salad ideas and all-things-salad. I snoop on restaurant menus, I consult with my friend the caterer, I scour Pinterest, I pour over old and new cookbooks and of course, I google the hell out of the internet.  I'm forever trying to one-up my previous salad! These days, my Lap band prevents me from eating gobs and gobs of my salad creations (more for my guests!!) but I take great pleasure in tasting them!   The one I am going to share with you today is definitely a keeper.  It actually sent my guests into gastric orgasms when I made it for our Annual Turkey Fry over Thanksgiving weekend.  Even though I made a huge vat of it....there was not a morsel to be had at the end of the night.  The secret to my salads are pretty basic---use store bought ingredients, doll them up, mix them up and put them all together.   At my house....the dressing is never on the table.  It's always mixed into the salads.  It's something I am very particular about...... you will eat my dressed salad and you will like it.  No, you will love it.....

  I call this salad...... 


(btw, this will serve about 12-14 people)

Dressing:  Mix 1 bottle each into a lidded mason jar...shake well and chill for 2-4 hours: 

Marzetti Simply Dressed Cherry Balsamic Vinegarette 

Marzetti Simply Dressed Caesar Dressing

Salad:  1 large bag of Butter Lettuces, 1 large bag of Spring Mix, 1 small bag of Romaine

Toppings:  1 small bag of dried cherries, 1 small bag of candied pecans (chopped coarsely), 2 containers of crumbled goat cheese, 2 diced apples (sprinkle with lemon juice to retain color)  

Mix everything in a huge bowl or large disposable roaster.  Salt and pepper to your liking.  Make sure to get everything covered in the dressing.  


Come back next week for the PASTA COURSE....

Friday, December 6, 2013

Expect nothing......


Christmas time in Pittsburgh's PPG Place. 

Just another lesson learned over these 50+ years of life.......

Thursday, December 5, 2013



'Tis the season of temptation.
My Lap band helps me not to be led too far into temptation. 

Although I am thankful every minute of every day for the gifts my Lap band has given me, the days that stretch between Thanksgiving and the end of  the year are when my thankfulness is heightened.  Just like everything else this time of the year that's on gratitude is on steroids.....

Holiday time is so much about parties and parties are so much about food that it's tough to avoid all of the temptations at this time of the year....unless you just want to stay home and sit on the couch all by your lonesome (but, as we all know.....there's even temptation in boredom....).   

Why should we have to avoid temptation?  
Why should we have to avoid the things that make the holidays the holidays in our lives?  

Trying to avoid the food temptations and then feeling guilty when I couldn't  avoid the temptations that I wanted to avoid or feeling so miserable because I overindulged were the things I hated the most about my dieting life.   I hated the guilt and all the misery. 
That's not to say that my Lap band completely stops me from overindulging but what I can say is that it helps.  But, more importantly, the success that I have had and the way that I feel about myself these days are the REAL tools that motivate me not to punish myself with overindulgence!  In other words---I never want to go back to that world of dieting and guilt and feelings of failure. 
So, between my Lap band and my own determination, I am able to deal with the temptations that the holidays bring.....
JOY TO THE WORLD.....let the parties begin!!! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Did I mention that I am trying out taking mass transit to work?
Well, if I didn't, I am telling you now.
I now have bus friends.  
My new bus friends on the first bus (that I ride from my suburban home into downtown in the morning and from downtown to the suburbs at night) do Happy Hours one night a month. 
They actually take a vote on the bus and to see which date works for the majority of the riders and they choose that date. 
Can you imagine?  The entire bus empties out at Cain's Saloon.....have I found a new heaven or what?
I am going to my first Bus Friends Happy Hour next week.
I'll report back to you afterwards....I promise...

Now, the other buses that I take from downtown to the Oakland Starbucks and then to my office (and from my office to downtown after work) aren't  quite as friendly. 
As a matter of fact, there are times when they are downright scarey.
However, it's recently occurred to me that any time I wear leopard print---whether it be my leopard print pants, my leopard print coat, my leopard print scarf, my leopard print hat, my leopard print boots....yes I wear a lot of leopard..... I make friends.
People are friendlier to people who wear leopard.
I just thought I'd let you know in case you find yourself wondering what to wear to a place where things might not be so friendly......

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Yes, I know "tastey" is spelled wrong on Santa's but.  Hell, it's been spelled wrong for 6 years...why fix it now? 
Welcome back Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exchange Fans!
I am so happy you are back for more recipe sharing!
And, a big HELLO THERE  to new Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exchange readers!
I am excited you are joining us.
I promise all of you 5 Tuesdays of  taste tested recipes that will surely make you the star of the holidays......!

December 2013 sure did get here quick.  Don't ya think? 
Thankfully, it's been another year of good eating here in Judiland. 
So, I'm armed with an arsenal of taste tested and fabulous recipes!
This year, I decided to present recipes in courses.   That means that today I will be sharing a few "starter" recipes. 
I'd love to hear about your favorite "starter" recipes!!!

Let's kick off  this year's TASTY TUESDAY with a yummily perfect cocktail to greet your guests this holiday season......

 St. Germaine Winter Wine Cocktail
FUN FACT: Even though St. Germain is fabulous and rich is only 80 calories per ounce and has just 18 percent sugar by volume (compared to the 30 to 35 percent found in many liqueurs). It's also all-natural, and gluten-free.  Woo hoo!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I know what you are thinking........

But, no, I have not been absent from Stories from the Road due to a food coma......
I was sequestered in my kitchen for hours on's the and Turkey #1 on Thanksgiving Day!
My house guests have come and gone, Thanksgiving dinner and all of the 
weekend's activities are just lovely memories..... 

 Hopefully, all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and had the opportunity to pause to enjoy and witness the wonderfulness in your lives.  Recalling all of the beauty and joy that surrounds us each day and giving thanks for it all helps to withstand our trials and tribulations.....

Speaking of trials and tribulations.......did I mention that I found myself incapacitated by tooth abcesses that went rouge? 
Yes, ROUGE.....
And, when I say incapacitated......I literally mean.....INCAPACITATED....
All of this happening on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Trust me, those were not happy moments.
Thankfully, I am on the mend.  
The only things I am currently suffering with is a refrigerator filled with leftovers, a house that needs a good cleaning, a kitchen that needs my undivided attention, Fall decor everywhere and a body that has aches and pains where I never knew one could have aches and pains......  
Thank God I scheduled an after work massage for was heavenly.  

Now, we are on to the business of December.
And, you know what that means here on Stories from the Road...... 
We will be talking holidays and all that jazz.
......drum roll please......
It's the return of Tasty Tuesdays......
For those of you who are Tasty Tuesday know the drill.
For those of you new to the drill---here's how it goes:
Every Tuesday in December I share a recipe from my ginormus pile of tasted and tested holiday-worthy recipes.   And, I ask you to do the same.....share a recipe in the comments section of the posting.
It's a great way to help each other get ready for all the kitchen olympics that go on this time of the year and the perfect way to make you the FOODIE STAR of your holidays!
So, dig out your best recipes to share!  We especially like simple and scrumptious recipes.....

December, here we come......

Saturday, November 23, 2013

T-minus 100 hours till T-day hits the table......

Okay, let's talk about Thanksgiving.
No, we're not gonna talk TURKEY. 
No, we're not gonna talk STUFFING.
Or mashed potatoes or corn or squash or pumpkin pie or appletinis......
We will save that for another day.
I'm just going to talk about Thanksgiving. 
Interestingly, in some recent research I did on the origins of Thanksgiving foods and Thanksgiving (don't ask me why I do this stuff...), I was struck by how Thanksgiving has transformed so dramatically from it's very beginning.   I guess we can say that about all holidays but somehow I figured that everything about Thanksgiving was deeply rooted in a tradition that began on that very first Thanksgiving way back with the Pilgrims and the Indians.  I must have been absent on all those days when we learned about it in school....I am sure I was home helping my mother get ready for Thanksgiving.  So, I can't be too unhappy about that......hey, I might have always erroneously  thought they served pasta and sausage stuffing on that first Thanksgiving but I have wonderful memories of those extra hours I got to spend with my mother while she was on this earth....
Anyway.....I am not going to talk about that first Thanksgiving.  But, if you want to know's a good place to check it out....
In many ways, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  There's a peacefulness about it that is comforting.  Although there's lots of work to be done ( should see my list right now!), there's not that EXTRA CRAZY work to be done---like gifts and over-the-top decorating and parties, parties, parties.  It's just one day.   The idea of sharing a meal with the people you love and having a day that is just all about being with those people just feels right.  I can't say I always felt this way.  But,  over the years, I formed a new love of Thanksgiving in my own home and with my family.   Clearly, I've passed that love on to my children.  My heart just about burst with joy the other night when my daughter was describing our Thanksgivings to her boyfriend and telling him how much she loved everything about it.  She made it all sound so wonderful and delicious and  magical and just oozing with beauty....which I hope it really and truly is!!!   And, I can't tell you how thrilled I am that my son is all about Thanksgiving.....he asked me to send him his "wine shopping list" and has been texting me with ideas on what he will cook for the feast.   He's making his beer list and figuring out football watching schedules with Carmen and my nephew.  
Hearing all of this and listening in on all of this has made Thanksgiving all the more wonderful and easier to love....
Perhaps the best thing about any holiday (or just any ordinary day) is making the memories that will be carried throughout the years.   Sure, we can cook and clean and shop and decorate and stand on our heads until we are crazy and exhausted--or both.  Sometimes that's what it takes to make a day or an event or a holiday happen.  Yet, in the end, what really matters is that somewhere in all of that....there's a moment that happens that never leaves the hearts or the minds of those we love so dearly. 
And, if we are really lucky.....we will have helped make that moment happen......

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you?

If you are old enough to will never forget......
Walter Cronkite tells the nation that JFK has been shot....

On that fateful day in November of 1963, my mother was doing laundry in the basement as I played nearby.
My Nana (who lived a few doors from us) came running down the steps, crying and screaming in Italian.
She came to tell my mother the news. 
They stood there in our basement, next to the washing machine.... and they cried.
I was very sad.  And scared.  

Sometimes it's hard to believe that I am old enough to so vividly remember that moment 50 years ago.....

Thank you for these words that live in my heart and steer my mind......

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day 2013!

Need another reason to drink wine today?
Yeah. Me too.
Hello Beaujolais lovely little wine!  
I am sure everyone has a Beaujolais Nouveau story......let me tell you mine..... 
Several years ago, my very dear and super elegant college roomie and I met in downtown Pittsburgh one very lovely Thursday in November.  Our plans were simple---get dressed up, have a winey lunch and shop.  We were both working moms who needed a break and this was the perfect way to do it.   
Little did we know it was a wine holiday.   As a matter of fact, in our overwhelmed lives and our busy-raising-kids-and-working worlds, we had never even heard of Beaujolais Nouveau.  
But, we knew a lot about White Zinfandel......I will red-facedly admit....
Several weeks before our meet-up, we chose a much-talked-about new restaurant (now closed!) to have our winey lunch and to catch up.  We made our reservations, we both carefully chose our outfits (we had several very serious conversations on the matter!) and both of us ventured into the city on buses from separate parts of the area to meet up under the Kaufmann's clock.    
Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted with great fan fare and were given a Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day flyer announcing the festivities and the special menu for the occasion.  Upon being seated, we were told that as part of the celebration, we were going to each be given a small sampling of  Beaujolais Nouveau for a toast that was going to happen at noon.   Free wine?  Sure, give us some!
Well, I guess we were a tad bit thirsty....we drank up that little sample asap.....leaving us nothing to drink to participate in the toast!  So, we decided to order ourselves each a glass.   
No can do.....we do not sell it by the glass.....we only sell it by the bottle.   A bottle of wine? No  problem.  We are dressed up, we don't have any kids with us, we came here for wine and lunch.....hellya....give us a bottle.  
Yum. This wine is super good.  Wonder why we never heard of this wine?  Should we order lunch?  Eh, let's just order another bottle while we look at the menu.....
Well, I am sure you can guess the rest of the story.  We laughed our way through a second bottle and a third and then called cabs to bring us each home.  No lunch. No shopping.  
Just two mothers who celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day......
Each year since then, we always send each other Beaujolais Nouveau greetings and remind each other of how we came to know about this lovely little wine.   Both of us rush to our wine stores to get our bottles and sometime in the evening....we both sit down in our own homes, with glasses in hand and toast each other....even though there are many miles between us.  
It's a wonderful reminder that good friends and good wine make good memories.....

If you don't have a Beaujolais Nouveau story perhaps today would be a great day to make one.....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Over- Forty Fashionistas UNITE!

Yes, I know I'm OVER-50.....which means that I am also over 40.  

It's that time of  the year when we are all thinking about what we will wear during the holidays.
You are thinking about that....aren't you?
Well, if you haven't even begun to think about it, let me help you along.
You see, I think about what I will wear ALL. THE.TIME.
The holidays are just another excuse to think even more about it.
I don't know about you but I am a marketer's dream come true.
I fall hard for all of the looks in those catalogs that fill our mailbox this time of year.
(hey, I got excited about the Sears catalog when I was a little girl...I've been afflicted for a long time.) 
I have always been completely convinced that fashion is part of each moment---from the shopping to the cooking to the tree trimming to the parties to even the cozy nights at home sipping hot chocolate by the fireplace (do I really have those??). 
Life is like a movie and every scene needs costuming. 
Holiday time is  like the movie-on-steroids......the costuming needs are endless!
Even though I know this about just so happens to be so much a part of who I am, I don't really stop and think about it much. 
But, the other day when  a coworker complemented me on a particular top that I was wearing, the conversation that ensued brought it back to mind again....
"I really like your top!"  she said, complimenting me on a top I was wearing.
"Oh, I bought this a few years ago to cook Thanksgiving dinner in," I explained.
"For WHAT?"  she asked, seemingly perplexed. 
"I always like to have a seasonal looking outfit that looks nice but is comfortable to cook in," I explained rather sheeplishly.  "Not like a shirt with turkeys or anything but something that says Thanksgiving and is somewhat dressy...."  I went on to tell her. 
"Oh....yeah."   she responded.  
Hmm.....I guess I thought everyone did that.....maybe not. 
Here's the thing-- I believe strongly in looking good for my guests when they arrive.  There's nothing worse than going to someone's home for a holiday or a party and they are dressed in their sweats or something that screams WORK.   I think it just makes a guest feel bad or guilty or something.  Maybe that's just me and my bizarre belief that no one should see me sweat when I entertain.  I believe in making it look effortless and magical.  I think it's best for the guest's comfort that way.....
I feel the same way about going to someone's home for dinner or a party.....I want the host to feel good about having me as their guest.  What I wear and the care I put into how I look is a reflection of my joy and appreciation of being their guest.   I want them to know I am thankful and one of the ways  I show them  is through fashion.  
 Feeling good about how I look makes everything so much more enjoyable...don't ya think?
Although I must confess---being afflicted with all of these fashion issues can sometimes cause a bit of stress.
Nothing I can't handle, of course.
But, it's stress nonetheless.
Thankfully, I have found a cyberload of over-40 bloggers who feel much the same as me......they believe in the power of fashion and style themselves and their lives accordingly.  
It's just a beautiful thing.
Not only am I appreciative of their advice and their style and the fact that they are sharing that part of themselves with women like myself, I am so comforted to know that I am not alone in adhering to the simple pleasures of fashion and dressing for the moments of my life......
Here's  just a few of my favorite over-40 style bloggers.......they each inspire  me for vastly different reasons and they each touch different pieces of me.   I put them all together and they influence every style of me.....

Fifty Not Frumpy
Over 50, Feeling 40
Tamera Beardsley
Style Crone
The Rich Life on a Budget
Fashion Adventures at Any Age
Lady of Style

You can count on me to make the world a more beautiful and stylish place...with a little help from my friends!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

HO HO HO......

 The Green Giant says to eat your veggies.......
(you have to be of a certain age to understand this, perhaps.....)

Okay, I gotta confess something right now.......I did not eat my veggies growing up. 
No matter what that GREEN GIANT said.
As a matter of fact, I hated that damn GREEN GIANT!  
It wasn't until I was married that I started to experiment with veggies.
But, I have to be totally honest's not like I am a veggie person.
I never force fed my kids veggies.
And, sometimes I forget about veggies all together.
I really am trying to be better.....
To prove to you that I really am trying to be better---I spent my weekend experimenting with new-to-me veggie recipes for the upcoming holidays.
Man-oh-man--- I hit the jack pot!
On Sunday, I had my taste testers on standby to help me in determining what will make the menus and what won't....
In the spirit of  Thanksgiving......I am going to share these 2 hits with you.....

Balsamic Glazed Brussel Sprouts
First, let me tell you that Brussel Sprouts never touched my lips.  Yes, I was a virgin when it came to Brussel Sprouts.  Until my Sunday morning Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving technique class.  Not only did the entire class go ga-ga over these (myself included!), my at-home taste testers gave them mega thumbs up.  And, here's the kicker--this recipe is easier than easy with a little help from Trader Joe's.  Even without Trader Joe's, it's easy!!!    Oh, did I mention there's bacon???

  • 4 slices bacon, chopped (I used the uncured "bacon pieces" from Trader Joe's)
  • 2 swirls of olive oil
  • 2  cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced small (NOTE:  I used the already chopped shallots, garlic and onions from Trader Joe's....found in the veggie section)
  • 10 oz shaved brussel sprouts (Trader Joe’s sell them ready shaved in a bag!)
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (I actually used the Trader Joe's balsamic vinegar glaze for more intensity
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmeggiano shavings (this was my add-in....loved it!)
  1. Cook the chopped bacon, garlic and onion in the olive oil over medium heat until  bacon is lightly browned and garlic and onion translucent.
  2. Add the shaved sprouts and stir well.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until sprouts just start to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the balsamic vinegar and stock and stir well.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for a further 5 minutes until sprouts are tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste, garnish if Parm shavings if desired.

Pumpkin Glazed Lyonnaise Carrots
Confession time again--I was never, ever crazy about cooked carrots.  But, once I was introduced to a recipe that my step mother called  glazed lyonnaise carrots, I changed my mind a bit.  In any case....
this recipe I am sharing with you is a result of me tinkering with a combo of my step mother's recipe and  the pumpkin butter glazed carrots they sampled at Trader Joe's a few weeks back.  Finally, this past weekend, after a few attempts that were just okay, I tinkered enough and came up with this one that my taste tester group just about did cartwheels over!!!  Please be careful if they too cause you to do cartwheels!!! 

1 bag of  frozen Trader Joe's Parisian Carrots (these little gems are fabumazing!)--you can use other frozen carrots of course!---follow directions on bag to cook these tender-crisp a sautee pan over low heat.....put.....
A swirl of olive oil
1/2 onion--chopped very fine
Sautee for a few minutes then add.....
3 heaping tablespoons of Pumpkin Butter (I used one that I had open in the fridge from Trader Joe's but other brands will work just fine!)
Slowly add the cooked carrots, stirring as you add them.  Add a little water to thin it if you need to.  Sautee about 5-8 minutes. 
About 5 minutes before serving---toss in a handful of chopped walnuts, a handful of raisins and some fresh thyme leaves.....
Season with salt and liberal amounts of pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley
Toss well and serve.

Oh, and before I forget......if you are looking for a lovely frittata recipe to serve your holiday guests (or yourself!) for breakfast or brunch or lunch or a light dinner......this one from The Proud Italian Cook gets rave reviews from me and  from my taste tasters!   It was the perfect recipe to try out during a taste-testing marathon! Plus,  it's yummy, it's seasonal and it's oh so pretty.   
The Proud Italian Cook never disappoints!!! 

 YUM! YUM! YUM!!!!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What feeds us?

This quote speaks to so many ways! 

The other evening....over a lovely and much-needed  mid week martini with my husband.....I was explaining my feeling of euphoria upon entering  the Forbes Avenue Starbuck's during the very early morning hours each day........ 
As I dash in from the cold entire being immediately responds.   
There's just something about the ambiance of the place at this time of  the's just special...perhaps even magical....the dim lighting, the roaring fire, the familiar aroma, the fogged windows, the students and other academics milling about, the tasteful holiday decorations.....

It feeds me in ways that I can hardly put into words....although I am trying.
If I recall, I am pretty sure that during my explanation....I called the place "my utopia".
I know you are thinking this is all about my beloved chai latte.
No, it's not all about that.....
There's more. 
It's about feeding my heart and my soul. 
And, it's a beautiful thing. 

Why am I just figuring this out now? 
Perhaps all those years of thinking that food was the only thing that fed me  makes these revelations all the sweeter......

Friday, November 15, 2013

CRAZY I come!!!!!

Stay tuned for  more STORIES FROM THE ROAD to Crazy Town!


Thursday, November 14, 2013


Carve that turkey!!!! 

Did I ever mention that I buy one turkey a week during November?
I have an elaborate system of storing and defrosting them that requires that I don't buy them all at one time.
The whole process can be quite stressful, trust me.  In other words----I drive myself effin crazy over the entire thing.....
I'm sure I told you all about it at some point during.   If I didn' you know. 
I'm excessive and maniacal......(no wonder I needed a Lap band!)
Why do I buy so many turkeys?
Because I cook so many turkeys.  There's the traditional turkey on  Thanksgiving day.  Then, there's the brined and roasted Turkey and the fried turkey and the not-brined traditional turkey (yes 3 turkeys!) on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (when we host our annual Turkey fry for a group of assorted family members and several cousins and out of town friends that we only see once a year).  
Plus, I must have massive amounts of leftovers.....right?   
Last year, at the last minute, I panicked...thinking I would not have enough turkeys....and I ended up with 5 turkeys plus enough leftovers from the other turkeys that I was able to send both kids and my sisters and my dad and my cousins away with nice care packages.
Still, the Monday after Thanksgiving, I found myself with one fully cooked, uncarved turkey. 
As you will note if you click on that link....I was offering it to anyone on my blog (and I did have a taker!!!)
So, I made sure to put notes in my menu log and on my 2013 calendar to remind myself----YOU DO NOT NEED A 5TH TURKEY! 

Now that I am fully immersed in my self-imposed turkey frenzy, I find myself at that familiar place of having to restrain myself from buying just one more.   Last night, as I was doing one of my turkey runs.....after I put one turkey in my cart, I found myself reaching for a turkey breast.....rationalizing that it wasn't another turkey, it was a turkey breast.  
Suddenly, I was stopped by someone calling out to me......seems like I always run into someone at Giant Eagle....
"So, what are you doing?  Buying your Thanksgiving turkey already?"  she asked
Did I dare tell her that I was 2 weeks into my turkey buying program?
"Yeah, I like to do it early...."   I heard myself say. 
"I am surprised  YOU don't buy a fresh turkey!"  she said.
Did I dare tell that  I am only on my 2nd turkey and that the last turkey I buy is a fresh, organic, free-range, yadda, yadda, yadda turkey?
"Oh, yes, I buy a fresh one too,"  I found myself embarrassed into admitting....I felt like I was being judged for buying a frozen (OMG!) turkey....
I was turkey shamed......right there at the Giant Eagle. 
"How many turkeys do you buy?  That one you have there looks pretty big!"  she said, pointing to the 22 pound frozen turkey in my cart.
"Oh, we like turkey..."  I sheepishly explained.
"Do you buy a turkey breast too?"  she asked..... 
Oh shit, she must have seen me reaching for a frozen turkey breast....
"I was just looking at them.....I am never sure if we will have enough breast meat", I stumbled... 
She had to know I was lying.... 
"Well, you can always keep it in the freezer if you don't use it.  The price is good."  she advised.
Why do I shop in this part of town????  
"Yeah, we'll see....."  I said, longingly looking into the freezer filled with turkey breasts.

I know there's a lesson in there somewhere.......

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I don't know about other Lap Banders but speaking for myself.....I know my way around soup.
Growing up, soup was one of those things I could take or leave.
I was probably way too busy getting to the main course to take the time to savor soup.  
I was a one soup girl for about 20+ years---wedding soup, wedding soup, wedding soup.
And, not just any random wedding soup---it had to be my family recipe.  I was completely convinced it was the only wedding soup worth eating.   It is pretty spectacular.....
Somewhere along the line, I developed a taste for a few other soups--clam chowder and French onion to be exact.....nothing too exotic for me.  And, of course,  I  experimented with soup recipes but never with much fanfare or major success.  
Soup was never part of the repretiore in my kitchen.  My children did not grow up on eating soup.  Clearly, I did them wrong.....
It wasn't until my Lap Band days that I found the true joy of soup.
Soup is a Lap Bander's best friend.  It's one of those band friendly foods that not only nourishes and keeps you satisfied with no major Lap Band issues, it also warms your soul and provides comfort.
And, for a kitchen-loving girl like me--soup also brings me joy in the kitchen.  All the chopping and stirring is relaxing.  And, watching everything transform into something yummy is what I consider a great time. 
Soup-making is an art---a perfect blend of a good recipe, personal creativity, technique and yumminess. 
Sure, I've had my share of dud soups that found their way down the garbage disposal.....oh the stories I could tell.....
But, more often than not, I've been pleased with the results.  Some of those recipes...although good...were one-hit wonders.  While others have become staples in our menus.
My soup-making is now an event that my family looks forward to.   In fact, it's probably only one of the only things about the arrival of cold weather that they absolutely enjoy.   We can all do without the cold and wind and snow and the long dark days of  late fall and winter.  Soup gets us through it. 
While my daughter was in college--I had many soup emergency emails, calls and texts.   I would love those shout-outs for specific soups.  They would send me into the kitchen--deliriously happy--making big vats of whatever they asked for.
I wonder what those girls are eating now that my daughter is a college graduate.....
For as many soup recipes that I've tried, I have never attempted to make a cream of mushroom soup.  I have no idea why but it just never occurred to me.
This past weekend, with  2 sets of out-of-town guests visiting and me holed up with dad duty, we had to figure out a way to not only feed everyone but also to do a bit of Pittsburgh-y entertaining.  With about 3 hours to get away on Saturday afternoon, we decided to take one of the groups (the other group happened to be our daughter's sorority sisters who were lazing around at our house after spending Friday night at the city's young hotspots in Southside)  to Mt. Washington   to see the city in all its grandeur from this magnificent suburban perch high above the city.  This particular group was visiting for the Pitt-Notre Dame game (a huge deal!).  Since Carmen could not make it to the game due to his brother's 60th Birthday party that night, he wanted to make his time with these old friends as celebratory of the reason for their visit as possible.   So, we decided to find a restaurant-bar atmosphere that would fit the casualness of football.   Without much preplanning, we chose  The Grandview Saloon .  Little did we know that the place would be crawling with Guiness-drinking, Jamison-shot-taking Notre Dame fans---in all their glory, decked out in their Fighting Irish best.   My husband and friends--having all attended Pitt---were the 6 lone Pitt fans in the place--all of them wearing their Pitt regalia.  But, with little time to find another location, we huddled into a corner and made the best of the rocking atmosphere and the gorgeous view.   When it came time to order lunch, I spied their "award winning cream of mushroom soup" on the menu.  My choice was made.  Soup. Award winning. Win. Win. 
Yeah, well, I am not so sure how it won any award but I took it in stride......their wine list was good, the company was fun, I was happy to have some time to get away from my dad duties and did I mention that I was happy to have some time away from my dad duties? 
Although the soup was not award-winning by any means, the creaminess of the soup and the faint taste of mushrooms was enough to wet my appetite for a good bowl of Cream of Mushroom Soup.
So, no sooner did I get back to my dad duties, I set about finding the perfect recipe.  That's when I came upon Ina Garten's Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup.   
Ina is one of those cooks who I trust implicitly.  Plus, I love when regular home cooks give their reviews of a recipe.  With those two things going for it, I decided that I would use my free time on Sunday morning to get all of the ingredients before heading home to host a brunch for all of our visiting guests.......yes, I am a glutton for punishment  (trust me, I made it very easy on myself--Panera catering is very helpful with these things!).  Thankfully, the recipe itself does not call for anything too exotic--everything was easy to pick up at the little grocery store near my sister's house (where I was staying with my dad).  After the brunch and everyone scattered to do other things, I set my sights on the recipe.   It was an easy and enjoyable recipe to make--with enough "down time"....(waiting for the stock to cook, simmering, etc) so that I could tackle other little things in the meantime.  
So, friends.....I think I've found another hit soup recipe.   The only minor changes I made to this recipe were:
-In stead of discarding the veggies that I used for the stock, I put them through the food processor with a little of the stock (made a thick paste) and used it as a thickener and cut back on the flour and heavy cream (my version of making it "healthier")
-I added some fresh grated nutmeg at the end and let it simmer a bit  (I love the taste of nutmeg in cream soups and sauces).

The soup was a huge, huge hit....with young and old alike.  My father gobbled it down and asked for more (no shock there!), my daughter and her boyfriend devoured it and Carmen and I thought it was amazing.   I served it with breads that I had leftover from brunch (sour dough, asiago and hearty wheat).....
Now, this was an award winning meal......with an award winning soup...... 
Thank You Ina! 

Can't wait to eat leftovers tonight!!

Make this soup.....NOW!