Monday, February 27, 2012


On January 12 my world came to a screeching halt. The day began as it usually did. I checked my food calendar as I normally did. My computer decided it was time for an update. I decided to watch TV while the updates updated. Then the unthinkable happened. The computer died. I tried everything I could think of to bring it back to life. Nothing worked. Dead became deader with every trick. Finally there was nothing but a black screen.

My facebook friends descended on my daughter. My daughter descended on me. With no car and limited funds, I had no way to communicate with anyone but the kind lady next door. My bills, generally paid online, waited if they could. If they couldn’t, I went through automated phone prompts until the voice or voiceless on the other end of the line took my money. I pulled out the free phone book that was tossed in my driveway some months ago. It seemed to be less than worthless for my needs. I couldn’t find a doctor for my computer. Well, I could find some but not what I was looking for. I don’t need another series of phone prompts just to find out they lost my baby. By the end of month #1 with no computer, I got a netbook. The kind lady next door drove me up to Walmart. The only netbook they had was an Acer. Acer and I have a history. My first desktop was an Acer. I wore all the letters off its green keyboard. I continued the history.

I got excited. With a new toy I’d be ready to talk to the world again. Not so fast, girl. I plugged in my USB modem and nothing happened. (Well, a little something happened but it’s not worth talking about.) At least I had solitaire.

Two weeks so of playing solitaire and trying unsuccessfully to communicate with the people on the other side of me, a miracle landed in my mailbox. A computer repair shop opened up less than two miles down the road! I talked Mary, my neighbor who seems to be the only one on the block who’ll cart me around. She’d take me there. She’s used to running when anybody calls so I didn’t have to wait that long.

Turns out my hard drive died. My old USB modem wouldn’t work with Windows 7, the OS on my new netbook and the one that would be installed on my Dell laptop when the ‘puter doctor got the new hard drive and brought it back to life. Getting the new modem proved to be another problem.

Stuck watching TV pinned me into watching political stuff as the LOP (Least Objectionable Program) most of the day. Somewhere between watching Republican candidates exhibit their stupidity, liberal talk show hosts forgetting how to speak, and Food Network, I found my way to get a new modem. I offered to give Mary at least enough gas money to get us to the Verizon store (about 12 to 15 miles round trip) and off we went. This is the United States of America. You can get anything you need for cash!

I’ve been online for almost a week now. Mary’s been without her cable TV and phone bundle for nearly the same time. We’re both waiting for money in the mail. Once I get mine, I’ll pay for a ride to the bank. By then she should be OK. Maybe I can introduce her to my favorite produce store on the way home. It’ll be good to see Top Crop again. Hope she likes it!

Monday, January 9, 2012


Pizza! The entire second week of January is National Pizza Week! I love it!

What did you say? You can’t eat pizza every day, day after day, for an entire week? I can. Bet you can too! You’re thinking of pizza with some sort of red sauce, maybe with some kind of meat, and some melted cheese on top. We could go into the reasons why that combination tends to burn the roof of your mouth but I don’t claim to be a physicist or mathematician. I have been known to make some pizzas like the one you’re thinking about and a few that are quite different.

There’s the history of pizza. I’m not really a historian either. I think pizza shows up on the food calendar often enough to cover pizza history another time.

It may be a good idea to cover some not-so-standard pizzas I have made during my adventures in pizza making. If I wait too long, I may not remember even the highlights.

When I worked in a government office in 1990, we ate a lot at work. People from all around the country worked there. At least once a month someone would bring in food for a friend (or friends) to share. Before large layoffs started, someone had the wise idea of a shared lunch. Everyone would bring a favorite food, local from their home state most appreciated. I was lucky. I was from Chicago. I decided to bring pizza, one of my favorite foods.

The year was 1990. I made my first pizza in 1960. I would make three different pizzas. One would be as close as I could come to the first one without Chicago water. That would be a simple cheese and sausage with a few vegetables on half. Another would be plain cheese with a side of cooked veggies for those who thought plain cheese boring. My two pizza pans filled and one recipe of base dough used up, gave me a chance to experiment. I would make a ham and cheese on rye pizza. I made them almost deep-dish in round cake pans. I baked the foundations until non quite done, docking the dough and even putting another cake pan on top to keep them from rising too tall and leaving room for the filling.

I made a béchamel sauce and sweated some sliced onions in a frying pan. Then I started building the pizzas. It started with the béchamel spooned on, not too thick, followed by the onion, just thick enough. Then came the stars of the show: the ham and cheese. I used thin-sliced deli ham and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Those went on the pizza and were covered with sliced Swiss cheese. The pizzas went back into the oven until the cheese on top melted.

All the pizzas were a hit. I thank the Department of Commerce for providing enough microwave ovens to warm all of our food. The ham and cheese on rye was the last one to go. Was it that scary? One of my friends (who later became the Mayor of Sarasota) decided to try a thin slice. He then staked claim on the rest of it.

If I can make a ham and cheese sandwich into a pizza, how about a cherry pie? I’ve done that!

Monday, January 2, 2012


There is plenty for everyone this month. January is Bread Machine Baking Month. Everyone who knows me realizes making bread has been one of my passions since Eisenhower was president. Of course, I made bread by hand back then. I think Bill Clinton was president when I got a bread machine. I used it to death. Still have half a bookshelf of bread machine recipe books. I may still use them.

January is also National Candy Month. Think I’ll start celebrating that when the Christmas candy starts to run out.

It’s also National Egg Month. Deviled Eggs may start the month or perhaps a frittata on New Year’ Day. Eggs are great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I wouldn’t try all three.

Now, here’s something I can celebrate several times a day, all day, all month. January is National Hot Tea Month. Does anyone remember Iced Tea Day last year?

January also happens to be National Meat Month. That won’t excite my vegan friends but it sure will excite my dog Izzy.

Izzy’s not probably going to get too thrilled with National Oatmeal Month. Of course, she’d change her mind if the oatmeal went into cookies maybe with peanuts and dried cranberries inside. (Hmm, I’ll have to try those!)

It’s also National Soup Month. That could get messy for a dog. Come to think of it, it could get messy for some people too.

While you’re using your bread machine, or not, January is National Wheat Bread Month. Make it with your own two hands. Use your bread machine. Buy it in a bakery. Might I suggest a whole wheat bread? Maybe a sweet one?

The end of the list for January is Prune Breakfast Month. Prunes in your oatmeal?

This should be fun! Some months and weeks will be more fun than others. I’ll try not to get confused. That gets harder every month.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Tuesday, October 04, 2011, as I begin to write this, is National Vodka Day. My mind started working. The vodka supply is getting low. Not much room for mistakes to pour down the drain. But I wanted to make a new Bloody Mary. I’m tired of vodka and cranberry.

I used to have a great Bloody Mary recipe. It was borrowed, stolen, from two fantastic and totally different Bloody Marys I’d had in Key West. It was so long ago that I can’t remember the names of the bars. The first I’d been told about in Chicago, nearly 2,000 miles from its home. It was almost traditional in spite of Picapeppa Hot Sauce and cilantro. The second was refreshingly sweet – sort of. It was made with a secret recipe mix. In it I tasted cinnamon. There must have been other, unidentifiable, secrets but I couldn’t get the bartender to tell me what they were.

Where has the year gone? It is now January 1, 2012. Bloody Mary Day! That’s what got me in trouble in the first place.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been following food holidays. There have been plenty of food holidays that suggest meals or menus for the day. There are some that offer drinks. Of course, there are a few that may turn a stomach.

Perhaps this year food holidays may become my blog. Not sure I’m ready to post to the blog every day but there are entire weeks and months devoted to a particular food (or drink). I can handle the months and weeks (at least I hope I can). Let’s see how I do this year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Sandwich!

Once upon a time, in another life, I worked outside of Chicago. A new job as customer service manager for a small air freight forwarder down the road from United Airlines' headquarters was a bit scary. The proximity to United wasn't at all frightening. In fact, it came in handy at times. I was getting a divorce. That was scary. A new job, a new life, a young daughter, and a 32-pound cat to care for jangled my nerves. As often is the case, fear was not truth. The job was wonderful. My daughter was wonderful. I lived through the divorce. The cat was 32 pounds of wonderful.

I had an hour for lunch. I usually took it. Sometimes I didn't. An emergency shipment or a customer in need occasionally ate my lunch hour. Time came for our beloved dispatcher, also called JB, retired. I had been his back up so his job became mine. It just seemed like a little more time on the radio. Then the operations manager quit. I got his job too. Drivers would call me and ask what I wanted for lunch. Sometimes I would go to lunch and come back to drivers 90 miles from their normal territory. The drivers all knew of my love for a good Italian beef sandwich. I got variations of the ultimate Chicago sandwich (that didn’t start with a hot dog) from all around the city and suburbs. I started staying in for lunch.

Then one day the owner and president went grocery shopping. They came back with about two pounds of sliced deli ham, a loaf of rye bread, and a jar of peanut butter.

“Wait until you taste this!” said Sid, the president.

“It’s almost as good as sex,” said the owner of the company. If you knew him, you'd expect that comment.

The three of us made sandwiches. Just peanut butter and ham on rye. They were good. They weren’t quite an Italian beef. And they certainly were not almost as good as sex. They were missing something.

There was plenty of ham left after lunch and almost half a loaf of rye bread. I’d fix it for tomorrow.

The next day I put a little plastic bear out on the lunch table. The guys looked at me as if I had put out drain cleaner for lunch. Coming back from the refrigerator, I opened the loaf of bread and the package of ham. Then I assembled my sandwich. The men watched. They didn’t touch anything. Before even taking a bite, I cut the sandwich in half then in half again. I gave each of the men a quarter of a sandwich. They looked at it from several angles. They sniffed it. Then they bit, just a small bite. The rest of each quarter was devoured as if in one bite.

We each made sandwiches together. A little peanut butter, then a little ham, then a drizzle of honey. The peanut butter and ham on rye was made with honey forever more. It wasn’t missing anything now.

We made sandwiches at least once or twice a month. In between I got my Italian beef, an occasional pizza, and every once in a while a hot dog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Garden District Green Beans and Pork

It’s sticky here! It wasn’t the kind of day anyone wanted to spend in the kitchen. But I did. The boneless pork ribs I found at the grocery store were whittled planks of pork picnic between four and five inches long. Now, if you know anything about where your meat comes from, other than the grocery store, you’ll know that pork picnic comes from the shoulder of the pig. Pigs aren’t built like chickens. They aren’t built that much like cows either. But I don’t know any animal that has ribs in its shoulder. I wasn’t upset. I like pork picnic. I used to buy whole picnics when there was more to feed than me and the dog. I’d render the lard sometimes. Never cooked the rind, the skin but wish I had friends who would eat it if I did. I knew the pork needed some time to cook or it would be tough. I seasoned up the “ribs” and seared them in a bit of olive oil for a start. I put a 12-ounce steamer bag of green beans in the microwave and set it for five minutes on high. The directions called for 4 ½ to 6 minutes. My microwave has a lot of muscle and the beans were going to cook a little more. While the beans cooked, I transferred the “ribs” to a baking dish, covered it with foil and put it in a 350 degree oven. Then I dumped a can of stewed tomatoes in the same pan I seared the pork. Maybe there was a little bit of pepper and thyme still in there. I didn’t mind. I added a little garlic powder to the tomatoes and a little oregano. I cooked them on low heat just to get the flavors starting to mingle. Then I went and watched TV for a little bit. I went back to the kitchen and added the beans to the tomatoes and stirred them together. The pork was smelling good in the oven but still had a little while to cook. Back to the TV I went. When I got back to the kitchen this time, the beans and tomatoes were starting to get a little dry. I added some water and stirred them again. Good thing it wasn’t time to take the pork out of the oven. I checked outside to find the garbage men still hadn’t emptied my garbage. I let Izzy out the back door to walk Rover. By the time Izzy was ready to come inside, the pork was ready. Normally the tomatoes and green beans would be covered in slivered onion slices and covered. There were two problems with that. The frying pan I used didn’t have a cover and Izzy can’t have onions. So dinner was done. I forgot to sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Please don’t tell Izzy. We call it magic powder and put it on her food when she needs medicine hidden there. She loves Parmesan cheese! After I ate, I put the beans and tomatoes on top of the remaining “ribs.” Tomorrow I’ll remember the Parmesan!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Memories of Breakfasts Past

The other day a Facebook friend posted a photo of a breakfast long gone, remembered in a photograph and in his mind. Of course, that brought my thoughts to breakfasts of years ago. Peter’s memorable breakfast was eaten in Italy. Mine, both of them, were in the USA.

The first breakfast was on the road, Iowa I believe, on the way from Chicago to that farm in South Dakota chronicled here in “Revenge!” Yes, it was the same farm and I think it was the same year. Dad brought Mom and me in his car. Joe, my father’s boss, brought his wife in his car. (In case anyone wonders, gas was ridiculously cheap and the men wanted two trunks to stuff with dead birds. It was a hunting trip, after all.)

I’ll be nice when I talk about my elders. Joe and Josephine were large people. Saying it any other way would make it hard to be nice. They liked to eat. Today they might look sort of average. In 1948, they were large.

After a night in a motel, the five of us stopped for breakfast. The adults got menus and I don’t remember getting anything. Joe was hungry so everyone else let him order first. “I’ll have a cup of coffee,” started Joe.

“Icky!” I said.

“And a glass of milk.” Joe looked at me before he continued.

“Me too,” I said.

“A glass of orange juice, three eggs sunny-side up, hash browns, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and some toast.” Joe finished his order and sat back for the next person to order. Everyone expected Josephine to go next. She had to wait.

I piped up once again with “Me too.”

After the table stopped giggling, the waitress asked my mother if I really meant it. Should she bring this huge breakfast to this little girl? “Make it one egg, scrambled. What she doesn’t finish, she’ll share with us.”

That earned me a nickname. Joe and Josephine would always know me as “Me too!” after that.

I must admit that I don’t quite remember the meal. I’ll never forget the story, though, since my parents must have repeated it dozens of times. So did Joe. I must have done a number on that breakfast because we had an early lunch that day. The milk had little ice cubes in it. Icky! There was ice in the orange juice too but that wasn’t as hard to take. I don’t remember if the sausage was link or patty but I’m sure it was good. The pig it and the bacon came from probably lived in the neighborhood.

That may have been my most memorable breakfast, probably because I heard the story for years afterward. There were other breakfasts not to forget. Since I won’t forget them, I’ll talk about them later.