Friday, April 29, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

I am overwhelmed with the destruction and devastation from the tornadoes in the south.  My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

It was a long walk from the flower market. The senorita wanted fresh flowers for her Cinco de Mayo celebration.  She saw the hacienda in the distance. 

Perhaps I can rest a bit before heading home, she thought, as she made her way across the street.

"Buenas dias, Senorita", the waiter said as he approached the table.  "Can I get you something cool to drink"? 

"Oh, yes, senor.  If you would be so kind."

Adobe Blues "legendary" margarita on the rocks with salt
The senorita brought the drink to her parched lips and took a long sip.  Mmmm, so refreshing.  The cool lime is wonderful in this heat.

"And may I offer you some dinner"?  "Perhaps our drunken shrimp"?

"Si, senor", the senorita said.  She could feel the hunger pangs subsiding as she thought of her dinner.  "That sounds muy delicioso"!

Beer soaked shrimp sauteed with garlic, onions, bacon, chopped jalapenos, and sherry wine served on rice
 After dinner, the waiter approached one more time.  “Senorita, may I offer you some dessert?” 

The senorita thought for a moment.  Her peasant skirt was fitting a little more snugly than she remembered.  "No, Senor, I am trying to redeem myself from all the goodies I had at Easter dinner, so  I will just take the check."

"But senorita, we are making fried ice cream in anticipation of Cinco de Mayo."

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, thought the senorita.  But then she brightened.  "Can I have mine with fat-free yogurt?"

fried ice cream with a golden honey syrup

The senorita headed home thinking, that food is so good it will make you yell "arriba arriba"!  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Joining Seasonal Sundays at The Tablescaper

The "senorita":  "Christmas Bride" Limited Edition of 1997 by Goebel, purchased at the Camelback Inn, Arizona.  Wonder where the senorita will turn up next??

Many thanks to Tom and the staff at Adobe Blues Restaurant, 63 Lafayette Avenue, Staten Island, New York.  Sorry, they would not divulge their recipes.  To see their menu click here and to learn more about Cinco de Mayo click here .

This was a completely unsolicited personal review of a meal at Adobe Blues Restaurant and no compensation was received.

My previous post has been updated with a link to the Tubby Olive, where you can purchase blood orange olive oil and chocolate balsamic vinegar.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Have you seen these brown tomatoes in the supermarket?  I was intrigued so I bought a package, 5 for $3.49. 

Between my Kodak Easy Share and lack of skill, these looked browner in person!  After all the Easter goodies, I am buckling down this week.    I made a quick dressing using blood orange olive oil, chocolate balsamic vinegar, s&p, oregano and cumin, all to taste.  If I had fresh basil, I would have added that too.  Too early for fresh herbs in my area.  Although the last few days have been warm and humid.

So in the spirit of redeeming myself from all the Easter goodies, it's what for lunch today!  P.S. the tomatoes really didn't have much taste  :(

If you are interested in finding blood orange olive oil and chocolate balsamic vinegar, you can visit the Tubby Olive in Newton, Pennsylvania by clicking here.


Monday, April 25, 2011

A bird's life

I dunno.  I am feelin' a little cage-y today.

I know when birdymama feels stressed, she heads to this thing on the table.  Maybe I should check it out.

Didn't think it would be this hard!  Now let's see, where should I begin?

Oh no, here comes birdymama, complaining that I better not take care of any 'business' while I am surfin' the net.

As if a classy bird like me would ever 'doo' that!!  Birdymama, I just wanted a little rest and relaxation, that's all.

What's that you say?  How 'bout some head scratchin'? 

I say, just what the birdy ordered!


Thanks to Pearlie for guest blogging today.  Pearlie was very closely supervised while 'blogging' and in no danger at any time  :-)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Flowers by Olivia :-)
Wishing everyone a beautiful day whatever you do, wherever you go!    xo

(was not aware that my email was private, I took care of that today!)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Oh My those Easter Pies-Part II - the "recipes"

Here they are.  Please bear in mind that these are from my head, which seems to be on straight today :).  I realize that certain ingredients might be hard to find in your neck of the woods.  If you have a Whole Foods close by, they carry the grain (or wheat berries).  Don't buy bulgar wheat, which is used to make a delicious middle eastern salad called tabbouleh.  I have also used in the past a wheat product in a can (yes, it was not too bad) from a company called Asti.  I believe they are based in Illinois.  The orange flower water might be found at either kingarthurflour or penzeys  Both have great online stores and feature products from all over the world.  King Arthur might have the wheat berries as well.

The Internet is full of recipes for these pies.  Some are almost exactly like mine, some take it over the top a little bit, and that I leave to readers' discretion.

Easter Grain Pie

3/4 cup wheat berries, soaked over night in the fridge with water to cover with large pieces of orange and lemon peel, then boiled til the kernels pop open (15 minutes or so).  Test to see if they are soft.  Set aside while making the rest of the filling.  Grease and flour a 10-or 12- inch spring form pan.  You may be able to make a smaller pie as well but we never know for sure. 

3 pounds ricotta cheese, well drained
12 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar (to start, might need more)
1 T. vanilla
pinch (it is strong) orange flower water - can use orange extract but I wouldn't *
juice and zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 jigger any cordial, I use creme de cacao but Grand Marnier is good, can be optional
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional but good)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (optional but good)
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (no need to whip)
1/4 - 1/2 cup finely chopped citron ( can used candied orange peel if citron not available)

 (*) can also use rose water.  You can also sprinkle mini chocolate chips which have been dusted with flour on the bottom of the crust before you pour the filling

I start by beating the egg yolks with sugar til thick.  Then add ricotta, the flavorings, juice, zest, cream.  Blend til smooth and taste.  It may need more sugar, more vanilla, more zest whatever you think.  Then fold in the cooked, well drained and cooled wheat and citron or candied orange peel.  Lastly beat egg whites till stiff and fold them in.  Pour into crust and cut strips from dough to lay across, using two strips to form an X, repeat 3 or 4 times across the top.  Bake 350 for about an hour, if top browning too quickly, cover edges with aluminum foil.  The crust should be a light golden brown not too dark.  Test with a toothpick, it should not be wet.  Cool overnight, this tastes better the next day.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar when ready to serve.

For the sweet crust (pasta frolla), I use a recipe I found on the Internet that was close to my memory of it. I also make two batches of  this recipe since pie crust and I don't always see eye to eye. This dough keeps well and if you have a lot left over you won't be sorry.  Can be frozen.

Single batch of crust
1 1/3 cups a-p flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temp, 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk, grated zest of half a lemon

Mix flour and sugar.  Cream butter and eggs  using a pastry blender (old-fashioned ,yes, I know but recipe is older than dirt!).  Mix in zest.  Don't over work dough.  Let it rest about an hour.  Roll it out working as quickly as you can.  This dough should not be allowed to turn a dark brown or it will be too crumbly.  Watch it very carefully.

Pizza Rustica (Easter Meat Pie)

Use whatever pie crust you would use to make a double crust 9-inch savory pie.  I use frozen deep-dish pie shells.  I use about 1/4 lb diced of each of the following:  prosciutto (can use ham), Genoa salami, soppressata, pepperoni (optional), mortadella (optional),  mozzarella, mild provolone.  For the ricotta base, I use about 2 cups (guesstimate, may need more)  ricotta mixed with 4 beaten eggs, handful grated Parmesan cheese, pinch of black pepper, about 1 T. finely minced parsley, and a teeny pinch ground nutmeg (trust me, but it has to be a teeny pinch).

If it looks too meaty don't use all the meats, not creamy enough add more ricotta or an additional egg.  I never add any salt to this filling.  Fill crust and top with second crust, brush with an egg wash and make several small slits or dock with fork.  Bake til crust is golden brown, 350 oven, 50 min. or so (depends on your oven).  Test with toothpick, should not be wet.

Easter Sweet Bread (casatelli)

3 cups flour (you won't use it all), 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 1 pkg active dry yeast, 2/3 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup finely diced citron (or candied orange peel), 4 or 5 hard boiled eggs, (colored is nice)  sweet glaze, colored sprinkles

Start with 1 cup flour mix with sugar, salt and yeast.  Heat the milk and butter until warm but butter should not be completely melted.  Gradually add this wet mix to flour mix, stirring constantly.  Add the eggs and add about 1/2 cup flour.  Mix well.  Add remaining flour a little at a time til dough forms  You should have a nice dough without using all the flour.  Knead til smooth, then knead in citron or candied peel.    Put dough in greased bowl, cover with damp towel and let rise til doubled, about 1 hour. Cut in two, roll out into long ropes (I never really measured these but they are long!) , twist ropes together like a braid and seal ends together. You may want to break off a piece of dough to roll into smaller ropes that you would put on top of each egg like a "cross".  Totally optional.   Place eggs in between as evenly spaced as possible.  Put on greased baking sheet and let rise again for about 45 minutes.  Bake in a 350 oven 50-55 minutes, about 15 minutes before done, brush with a glaze made with an egg and 1 tsp sugar blended in a cup of water.  Top with colored candy sprinkles.  Return to oven til golden.  When cool, wrap with plastic wrap.

Click here to read previous post with photos.

Good luck and enjoy!   xo

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My oh my, it's those Easter pies

In my family, we were nothing if not traditional.  No matter what problems there were, if there was holiday on the horizon, the baking pans were pulled and our pantry was stocked with extra flour, sugar, and baking powder.  My mother would scour the weekly store circular to see if butter, eggs or oil was on sale.  I was usually the designated "runner", because no matter how much planning and orchestration there was, we seemed to always run out of something!

Italian baking, especially at Easter, is full of symbolism.  (It is also filled with calories and sugar and fat, but for purposes of this post, we will focus on the symbolism!)

My favorite pie, and the first one I learned to make, is called the Easter wheat pie.  It is also known as a "grain pie", and in my home, was called "la pastiera di grana". 

The cooked wheat (or grain) is symbolic of the resurgence of the earth coming to life in the spring, and along with the resurgence, hope for the rest of the year.  It is more or less a cheescake with the addition of the wheat, and strongly flavored with orange and lemon.  Along with vanilla, a flavoring called fior d'arancio or orange flower water, is used.  Sometimes a sweet liqueur is added.  My preference would be creme de cacao.  For as many families baking this pie, that is how many variations there are of it.  My grandmother, mother and aunt would whip these up from a long-ago recipe that was verbally told to them while they were learning.  When I first was being inducted into the family baking, I asked my mother about a written recipe.  Her response to me was, "What you put, you find."  OK, Ma, I guess the recipe was left on the boat.  Oh well.  But I soon got used to it, and if I see a recipe anywhere that sounds close, I will try it, but I always go back to my roots and add or delete accordingly.  So much for the belief that baking is an exact science!

Next we have the meat pie, also known as pizza chiena (full pie) or pizza rustica (rustic pie). 

The symbolism here is that during the 40 days of Lent, you were supposed to abstain from rich, fatty foods.  So when Lent is over, you can make up for those lean 40 days with one slice of the pie.  The best way I can describe it is - like a quiche on steroids.  Real men eat this pie, let me tell you.  It is diced ham, salami, provolone, mozzarella, dried sausage blended in a ricotta base with lots of eggs.  Not what the doctor ordered.  But once a year, a sliver should't hurt. 

After church on Easter Sunday, I would look forward to a breakfast consisting of an eggy, fragrant braided bread called casatelli. 

I was always in charge of the colored Easter eggs.  The eggs are boiled and dyed, then nestled in the braided dough and baked.  The eggs are not edible when the finished product is out of the oven.  But with a cup of coffee or glass of oj, it always hit the spot for me while I was going through my Easter basket.

Now, we couldn't just slice into our Easter baked goods.  We wrapped them and carried them to our church to be blessed.   We didn't take all of them, because in the good old days my mother and aunt would make pies by the dozen as gifts for family, friends, the doctor, even the postman.  But one of each brought to church would do.

I am afraid that this type of baking is becoming lost as the younger generation doesn't really "eat this way".  Good for them.  But I know when I just smell these pies in the oven, I am 8 years old and back to my roots.  And I have hope for the rest of the year.

Click here to see recipes.

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring!  xo,

I am linking to Seasonal Sundays at the Tablescaper

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Feet Part II - the Inn

Edited to add that I am joining Beth at Beyond the Garden Gate for her 2nd Travels Near & Far Party

I knew by the smoke
that so gracefully curl'd above the green elms,
that a cottage was near, and I said, "If there's peace to be found in the world,
a heart that was humble
might hope for it here!"

                                                                                               -  Thomas Moore, 1804

We found this little gem of an inn by letting our fingers do the typing on our keyboard and we were not disappointed. 

The 1825 Inn, which really was built in 1825, has undergone a metamorphosis under the skillful guidance of its new owner, Will.  It is about 5 minutes away from all  Hershey attractions and the Hotel Hershey, which is home to the fabulous spa which I spoke about in my last post. 

It is full of country charm and vintage goodies, some of which are for sale.  Each bedroom has its own "theme", here is a view of one bedroom and

the dining all set up and ready to go, which also houses the "gift shop",

a glimpse of the cozy living room (or parlor)

the community breakfast room

where you will be served one of the best breakfasts anyone could ask for.  And Will keeps track of each one
served so you will never have a duplicate meal!

The grounds are so beautifully kept and there is a lot to discover on a stroll after breakfast

Let's take a peek

walking a little further back

I just can't seem to get enough of our feathered friends!

And a little further there are private little cottages

all photos courtesy of Kathleen J. Photography :-)

This little road trip was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed sharing it with you!  xo,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Feet

Edited to add that I am joining Beth at Beyond the Garden Gate for her 2nd Travels Near & Far Party

That's a funny title, right?  You shall soon see why I named today's post this way.......

Making preliminary plans for this year's vacation (actually more of a "staycation") got me to thinking about last year's vacation at the sweetest place on guessed it, Hershey!  But no rides or water slides for this old gal, it is all about the pampering!

I treated myself to a cocoa facial, and let me tell you that the next best thing to eating a piece of chocolate is to have a skilled esthician apply a creamy, dreamy mask of light- as -air whipped chocolate to your newly scrubbed face. 

While you are waiting for your treatment, you can sit in the waiting room and nibble on a chocolate (or blueberry) muffin, sip a cup of tea, coffee, or hot cocoa, skim the pages of a book from their library or just gaze out the window.

When your treatment is over, you can relax in the quiet room (sh-h-h, it really is a quiet room, no talking allowed) or sit and destress in the aromatherapy room.  The scent that day was delicate roses.

When I finally was able to rouse myself from my scentsational stupor, I felt like a new woman when I left that day!  Ready to tackle any project, walk around any outlet mall with nary a twinge anywhere.

These tootsies shall remain anonymous to protect their owner

Thanks to Kathleen J. for being a guest blogger today by sharing her photos.  My next post will show where we stayed while in Hershey.    xo,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday, Monday

The Lord is my pacesetter
 I shall not rush,
He makes me stop and
rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images
of stillness,
Which restore my serenity.
He leads me in the way of efficiency
through calmness of mind.
And his guidance is peace.

Author Anonymous

I still don't like Mondays.  I always feel the most pressure to get going and get things started on Monday.  Even though I am now retired, I go to sleep on Sunday nights with a little feeling of dread.  Oh no, yet another 'work week'.  I have no one to blame for feeling pressure of any sort except myself.   This morning my to-do list is filled with stuff I need to do for a luncheon I am hosting on Friday.  Must be meatless (it's Lent). Plans for a "blog tutorial" needed to be rescheduled.  Is it too early yet to plant some pansies?  I am still looking through my Easter decorations, but they seem 'old' .  Perfect excuse for a shopping expedition, right?  Wrong!  I bought some new things last Easter but they are hiding somewhere in this little house.  Another note to self:  better time management!  I really believe that I got more things done when I was employed.  

I was happy to read this poem while going through mail, languishing over my second cup of coffee.  Helps put things in perspective for me.  What is really important vs. the need to do it all.  

Have a great week, and a productive one!  xo,

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Last but not least

he-e-re's Kiwi!

Gee whiz, I don't recognize birdymama lately......she is spending a lot of time on the computer visiting a place she calls Blogland, and then she gets on the phone with Aunt Kathy and fuhgedaboutit..........

What's a bird to do?  I guess I could 'tweet' about it...... I am a green-cheeked conure and I will be celebrating my Sweet Sixteen in July.  I am not always fond of the camera.  I heard somewhere that the camera can add 10 pounds, considering I only weigh about 2 ounces, I'd be in a whole lot of trouble.  I was just 8 weeks old when I came home with birdymama.  I can say several words, like my name "Kiwi",  "my baby",  "where's my baby" and "love you".   But I only say them when I am in the mood!   I love fruits and veggies, especially apples, broccoli and carrots.  My favorite snack is popcorn, and once in a while, I get to have pasta.  I'd never turn down a little bite of hamburger, either.  Don't get me started on cheese - yum.

All in all, I have a good gig going here, and I must say I like seeing myself in the header.  Could have used a pedicure, though.  Come back and visit us again.  Later, Kiwi  xo

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Allow me to introduce myself................

Hi!  I'm PearlAngel (or Pearlie, as my birdymama calls me).  I am one of the birdies in the blog header.  I am a pearl pied cockatiel, and I am not quite two years old.  Seems like my older sister and I have suddenly been thrust into the limelight.  Well, our feathers are a little ruffled perhaps, but otherwise we figure we'll grab our 15 minutes of fame!

I went through a rough patch when I was just a couple of months old.  I somehow 'escaped' my first home and was found in the street, lying there with a broken leg.  There are all sorts of animals out at night where I live, and it was really a miracle that a very kind lady, a true Good Samaritan, found me in the gutter and brought me to the closest vet.  This vet is an avian vet, and had been taking care of my older birdy sister for a long time.  After examining me, she found that I had gangrene in the broken leg, and in order to save me, had to amputate my leg.  I spent three weeks recuperating and receiving "birdy rehab" and was soon hopping about and even climbing up my cage.  The vet had my birdymama in mind and sure enough when she and Kiwi came for the well-bird visit, I was adopted as a "special needs" bird.  There is also 'talk' of me becoming a pet therapy bird.  I think I would really enjoy it.

My birdy sister will be introducing herself in another post.  She is much older and has a bit of a 'tude and can be quite camera shy, but we're hoping for the best.  Til next time,  xo

Monday, April 4, 2011

"An angel is someone you feel like you've known forever... even though you've just met."

Since the author of the subject quote is "Anonymous", I would like to take an opportunity to modify it a bit so it reads, "An angel is someone you feel like you've known forever...even though you've just met them in Blogland."

I am happy to show off my new header and buttons - thanks to Vicki at Curly Willow.  I was 'introduced' to Vicki by Brenda at Cozy Little House.  Vicki has a wonderful design business and lots of creative ideas.  So if any of you feel like sprucing up the old blog site, or for any novices like moi out there,Vicki is your gal!  You can click on her button on my sidebar.  Well worth taking the time.  You can see examples of previous work, special packaging prices, etc.

Thanks for all the lovely comments and positive feedback to date.  I appreciate it more than you would know.  xo,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

One Cute Chick

Talk about re-purposing an object!  My six-month-old pumpkin transformed into a chick!  Bet you thought I would just add some bunny ears and call it a day.  Actually, if I was able to find bunny ears, that is just what it would be.  This was the result of a walk around my local craft store.  And this hardy gourd survived several coats of paint plus a hot glue gun.  I think it will last until after the holiday.  And then we will give it a proper send off.  I really got my two bucks worth on this one!  xo, 

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