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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lazy Mornings

Usually my mornings are very rushed.... I awaken at 5:45, get ready for work, let the dog outside, and put the kettle on to boil.  There is nothing more calming than hearing the whistle of the kettle in my hurried state of mind.  I quickly grab two tea bags of English Breakfast, or Irish Breakfast tea, put them in my two (yes two) travel mugs for the journey to work.  I usually drink one on the way, and the other one when I arrive at work.

We are now off for Christmas break for a few weeks.  I have not planned anything travel wise, so I will enjoy my time at home (albeit with a visit to the dentist.....groan).  Once I finish with the mad holiday rush (I enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holiday crowd), I can finally relax with a cup of tea.  The morning kettle doesn't whistle until 10:30 or so.  I wake up about 7:30 or 8 (I'm a night - owl...bed at 1 or 2 am), but wait to drink my tea.  I'm usually not hungry or thirsty in the morning, so I don't mind the wait.  The kettle whistles, and I get out fine fine bone china tea cup with the little Christmas tree and holly shaped handle.  I grab my ceramic tea pot (that leaks on the counter almost every time I pour), fresh loose tea, and the tea filter.  I pour enough for about 4 cups of tea.  It's not going into the usual giant mug, but my dainty Christmas cup.   It doesn't hold much tea, but I could swear the tea taste better out of a bone china cup rather than a stainless steel travel mug.  I have my hearty French or Italian toast with my tea. My morning tea is always with milk and sugar, and never, never, never decaf! I can actually enjoy the aroma and each sip as I take in the start to my day.  I look forward to the relaxing mornings with my tea until the new year begins followed by a mad rush to arrive at work by 7:30!

After a day of running errands, I also enjoy my afternoon tea with cookies.  In the past I have enjoyed high tea at the Ritz and dreamed of having this splendor of luxury every day!  Oh, I can only imagine having this every day!  You know what?  It doesn't matter.... As long as I have my favorite Christmas cup, or mug and a few sugar cookies or ginger snaps, I'm truly in a world of my own.  I close my eyes and imagine I'm in my favorite Parisian cafe, or take my mind away in my current favorite book.  It's the comfort of hot tea that brings my soul to a peaceful setting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hi Hon!

Thank goodness for restaurants that are open late.... or ones that never close.  This morning, my son asked if I wanted to go out to breakfast (actually it was brunch time).  I'm always good to go for breakfast foods.  Bagel place that transports you right into Brooklyn, NY with the accents of  everyone on staff?  No, a little to far to go today.  Plus, they close at 2pm.  IHOP (Also known as International House of Pancakes)? Let me think.... I thought of Waffle House as they do make delicious hash brown potatoes and waffles.  I've been eating there since I was a kid.  There are many who have never been there, yet, one can't argue the freshness of the food.  It is made to order and I think it's fun to hear the old "deli style" lingo being shouted to the cook!  I usually have my standard two eggs over easy, hash browns: scattered, smothered, and covered, and coffee.  My sons had a hearty appetite this morning each finishing eggs, grits, waffle, bacon, sausage, and hash browns.

Waffle House was the place to go when there wasn't any other place open during the middle of the night.  It's the place where coffee doesn't cost $4.00 a cup and they still give FREE refills!  I know people that aren't from here who claim they would never step foot in a Waffle House.  I say, "let them be".  That's just one more pecan waffle in the works for me.

There are the jokes that abound about this restaurant, but when it comes down to it, our breakfast arrived within 10 minutes, nice, hot, and cooked just the way it was yelled to the short order cook.  The only disappointment today was that I didn't get called "hon".  That's always been a "pet peeve" of mine anyway, but it's tradition at the Waffle House to be called "hon", "sugah", or "darlin"......Oh well, I did get a "thank you m'am" from someone who had a northern accent!  I will return!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hot Cereal

I'm not one to really eat a leisurely breakfast during the week.  I have a get up and go mentality, plus I have to be at work at 7:30am.  I always have time to put the kettle on to boil, or make a pot of coffee for my travel cup.  Sometimes, I will make a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich on a bagel just in case I'm hungry before lunch.  I never eat breakfast on the weekend.  I'm just not hungry in the morning.   I do like breakfast foods for dinner.  This morning, Saturday, I awoke at 8 (thanks to a friend's text), cleaned around the house, and made my coffee at 10.  That's how I enjoy my coffee...... when I want it, not when time dictates it!

While drinking my morning coffee, I was thinking about what to have for dinner.  Greek, German, and Irish foods were on my mind.  I have tons of potatoes, so I can always fall back on Greek potatoes.  I looked and looked, nothing came to mind.  My sons would not be here for dinner, so a vegetarian dinner would be fine for me.  They are the carnivores of the house.

I had some cabbage soup for lunch and still could not decide about dinner!!  Since I had a late lunch (around 4pm), I knew dinner would be late, which isn't unusual for me at all.  The soup was more filling that I had anticipated, and I decided not to cook dinner.  I wanted something though...but what?  I scoured the pantry shelves until my eyes hit the breakfast shelf.  Yes, my pantry is that organized.  Steel cut Irish oats for oatmeal cookies one day, instant Grits (not for this southern girl, but for one of my sons), whole grain bars, pop tarts (a family favorite), natural almonds (for my Greek yougart), and last but not least 2 boxes of cream of wheat.  I purchased them as it is used in many Greek and middle eastern recipes.  I can't remember the last time I had cream of wheat, so I decided to make a bowl for dinner.  I know it would probably be healthier to have them with honey or brown sugar, but I used the old childhood favorite... granulated sugar and butter as topping for my hot cereal.  I eat it about once a year and apparently today was the day for my hot cereal for dinner.

I guess the five pound bag of potatoes will have to wait another day or two until I decide how to use them.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Avgolemeno Soup

Everyone has heard that chicken soup is good for you when you are sick.  Every country has their own version of chicken soup.  My favorite, of course, is the Greek Avgolemeno soup.  There is nothing more satisfying and comforting of the chicken soup that my mom made so well.  It's really quite simple to make and simplicity is the reason that it tastes so good.  For the past few days, I have had a temperature of over 100F.  Dragging around with very little energy, sore throat, and feeling "blah" (as my mom used to say).  The thought of anything spicy or sweet is so unappealing to me right now.  Imagine that!! Me not wanting anything sweet.  I try and have homemade stock in the freezer, but since Fall started, I've not made my supply of beef and chicken stock.  The little stock containers by Knorr will have to do in a pinch.  With quick stock, one can make this soup in no time at all.  Even though a bit tiring to make when one is not feeling well, the results are well worth the time spent.  This can be made in practically the amount of time it takes for the rice to cook.  It would be even faster if I used the microwaveable pouches that cook in 90 seconds! On second thought, it's the cooking of the rice in the broth that helps thicken the soup.... My son, the chemistry major, would be proud that I knew that about rice and starch.  

Here was my speedy soup version....

6 cups of water to 2 containers of condensed chicken stock (usually 1 container per 3 1/2 cups water, but I'm a rebel and don't follow directions).  

Bring stock to a boil with the juice of one lemon.

Add 1/2 cup medium grain rice and cook for 15-20 minutes until rice is tender

In a separate bowl, beat 2 eggs (an immersion blender works great)  To the eggs add some of the hot broth a little at the time so that the eggs will not curdle.  Keep adding the broth until you have at least 2 cups of mixture (that's just what I do).  Put the egg mixture back into the pot over very low heat.  Stir gently for several minutes until the soup thickens.  Do not allow the soup to boil, or the eggs will curdle.

It's as simple as that......Salt and pepper are all tat is needed.  Oh, and more lemon if desired.  Many people add pasta, celery, garlic, and onion to their soup.  Me, I just keep it simple.  I did add carrots one time as I had an abundance of them in my refrigerator.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fresh Herbs

I have always loved flowers. All kinds of flowers.  The first time I ever planted flowers was when my eldest son was selling them at school.  Of course, we had to plant them.  I was hooked!  I now plant bulbs, flowers, and herbs.  I do fine until I see a worm....then I have quit for several days!!  I have had success with many herbs; lemon thyme and rosemary, and failed terribly with others such as cilantro, dill, and basil.

For some unknown reason, this spring I had a bumper crop of basil growing on my deck.  The plant was huge. I guess I should have investigated how to dry and freeze the herb, but I didn't.  I did manage to use many of the precious herbs before the Georgia drought (and me forgetting to water them) took their toll on the delicious herbs.

The time I did get to use the herbs, were nothing but delicious.  Sometimes, it's the simple things in recipes (and life) that are meaningful and delicious moments.  A simple dinner of grilled chicken, haricots verts, and tomatoes with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese fit the bill.

A simple shallow bowl filled with fresh sliced tomatoes, sliced mozzarella cheese, and garden leaves of basil are wonderful.  Being Greek, I douse any kind of salad with a nice Kalamata Olive Oil, and a sprinkling of lemon juice and sea salt.  It is simplicity at it's best with a loaf of crusty Italian bread to soak up the dressing at the bottom of the bowl.  We did it as kids and continue to this day.  Not letting the delicious dressing go unforgotten.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Summer Heat is draining my energy

How in the world did we ever make it without air conditioning in the south?  Lucky for me, the house we lived in as a child had trees all around it.  I don't think the sun ever hit the house directly.  Open windows, attic fan, and youth kept us cool.  Jump start to today.... I don't know where I would be without air conditioning.... perhaps the Swiss Alps? Many places don't need ac, but here in the south one cannot live comfortably in the sweltering heat.  Humidity so high that when one steps outside, the thick air takes your breath away.  Needless to say, I'm not a summer least in the south.  I'm not a water, lake person either.  I do enjoy the ocean for walking on the beach, but I don't swim in the water any more.

What to cook on these hot days?  I keep my refrigerator full of watermelon, cantaloupe, and all kinds of fresh fruit to keep me cool.  I also eat salad just about every day for lunch and sometimes dinner too.  Last weekend, I purchased farm tomatoes at a local market.  The tomato is such a flavorful vegetable (ok, some call it a fruit, but nonetheless... it's a veggie to me).  Sometimes, the less you do with the best ingredients, the better.  Salad of tomato and mozzarella or feta cheese is amazingly tasty.  I made a tomato sandwich on white bread with just a touch of mayonnaise.  It was delicious. One son will eat a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwich and the other will eat a BLT.....but hold the lettuce and tomato. David is my carnivore (no fruit or veggies for him). How that happened, I have no clue. No one else in the family is a picky eater.  The rest of us seek out foods we've not tried in our journey to taste what the world has to offer.  After watching those shows on tv though, I do think I have my limitations of what I will try?  Live bugs, bats, etc... may be on my "I don't think so" list.

Anyway, I do consider myself a healthy eater with supplements of junk food just to keep me happy. I do love french fries as you all know from the title of my blog.  I like pumpernickel bread on some sandwiches, but tomato, turkey, and sub sandwiches demand white bread.  I figure that I get enough healthy foods in my diet to really eat the kind of bread I enjoy!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Heat

As much as I enjoy cooking, the summer heat just zaps my energy.  Oh, how I wish I could have "summer break" during the fall or spring.  I have the time to make great meals, but I don't want to eat much during the summer.  A nice dinner salad suits me just fine.  I honestly do not see how people can make hearty dishes like lasagna during the summer. It just heats up the kitchen so much.  I will admit though, if you make a lasagna dinner, and invite me during the summer, I will be more than happy to eat it!!

It's the same with lunch.  Sometimes I will just have some fruit or cheese and crackers when I feel the pangs of hunger.  More often than not, I will just skip lunch all together.  Dinnertime is usually around 8:30 or 9 when the evening finally starts "cooling" down.  The heat takes a toll on me and the thought of eating when I'm really hot is not an option.  Just give me the cool drinks and I will eat when it is cooler in the evening.

I've lived in GA all of my life with a few exceptions of short stints in college, and I have never liked the summer heat.  The other parts of the year are fine. I was talking to my brother the other day and I was saying that I would like to see more of the world.  If you were to tell me today that I had a job in Seattle, I would move there.... site unseen in a heartbeat.  I know many people who dislike the heat as much as I. It makes me lethargic, grumpy, and physically uncomfortable.  Yet, there are others who relish the 90+F weather and want it never to be below 80!  I guess that's what makes the world go around isn't it?

I start back to school tomorrow and am excited to see all of my coworkers.  Time to eat my daily salad from the cafeteria for lunch (they make a nice variety of salad), and enjoy a microwave cup of coffee or tea.  I'm sure I'll put on a few pounds as I watch the children eat their breakfast and snacks in the classroom.  It's the old Pavlov effect.... I'll be STARVING I know.  Yesterday, I did not eat anything until dinner time.  I'm sure tomorrow will be a different story as breakfast will be provided by the school, then lunch with coworkers. What a nice welcome back to the school year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Low Country Crab Boil

The first time I ever had a Low Country Crab Boil was at the home of a college roommate.  Lori was from Florida and her husband was from Savannah, GA.  I went to their house one evening for dinner and it was cooking outside.  That was about 20 years ago, and it has been a favorite meal of mine ever since.

Nothing could be easier than boiling water right?  That's basically how it starts.  Of course one can use a giant pot with steamer insert and cook it over the stove, but outside is more fun!  Next time I make it, I plan on using my turkey deep fryer since it can hold a lot of food.

I had it this past weekend at a friend's 50th birthday party.  What a perfect summer food.  It was a catered event and they did a great job of cooking everything just right.  The fun part about making this dish, is that you add more of what you like (crab in my case), and less of your least favorite  (sausage).  I think that Old Bay Seasoning hits the mark with it's blend of spices.  I believe they now sell them in bags for those that don't like loose spices on their food, but just the flavoring.  If they don't have it in the bag, they should.  You can also use cheesecloth to tie up the spices.

The main ingredients are red potatoes, corn on the cob, smoked sausage (your choice of spicy or mild), shrimp, crab, and if you're feeling extravagant....lobster!  You want to gently steam, not boil the ingredients.  I usually cook the potatoes for about 10 minutes, then add the corn and sausage and cook for 5 additional minutes.  Last come the lobster, crab, and shrimp.  I would add the lobster with the corn and sausage to give it a little additional time. Shrimp shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes or so to steam.    It is best to just put everything out on a long table spread with butcher paper (I'm not a newspaper fan) and let everyone eat what they like!!  Being Greek, I like to have melted butter and lemon on my seafood.  The party I attended had melted butter to dip the potatoes, shrimp, crab, etc... but I really missed the extra zing and tang of lemon. It was delicious though even without the lemon. You have to remember that I put lemon on just about everything I eat!

My eldest son is away at college right now, but this is the first meal I'm going to make for him when he comes home!! I can't wait.  Some nice hearty French Bread would be nice to serve with this too.  For dessert, if anyone is still hungry, a simple fruit salad made with the abundance of summer fruit: watermelon, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries finishes off the meal.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's hot outside!!

Hot summer days in Georgia.  For someone who can't stand the heat, I certainly enjoyed hot yoga yesterday.  My exercise regime is worthy of an entirely different blog! So how do we cool off during these summer days.  The days of sitting on the porch swing, sipping lemonade appear to be returning to some neighborhoods.  That is so nice to see.  Since I don't have a front porch, or a porch swing, I try and find other ways to keep cool.

Fresh fruit:  I eat a lot of fresh fruit in the summer for breakfast. Watermelon is especially cooling for me. It is so good this time of year too.  I had some the other day that was so sweet it would rival any candy bar in existence.


 Salad for lunch, salad for dinner. I enjoy, and actually crave a nice green salad with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, hearts of palm, and any and every kind of olive that exists.  If I have feta cheese, I add that too.  Recently, I have started added fresh parsley, lemon thyme, dill, basil and a touch of mint to give my salad a little variation (plus, I'm successfully growing all of these on my deck). Salad is one of my comfort foods. We had it for dinner every night when I was a child.  The variety may change from time to time, but my preferred salad dressing is still oil, vinegar, and lemon

Tuna salad:  I don't make tuna salad that often, but I do enjoy it.  Tuna is fish.  Any fish that I eat has to be loaded with lemon.  Sometimes I make tuna salad French style (Nicoise) with steamed green beans, potatoes, and olives.  Other times, the old fashioned "southern style" tuna salad with boiled egg, mayonnaise, celery, and tuna (I still add lemon to the chagrin of many southerners).  I also add chopped dill pickles or chopped olives in lieu of the sweet relish.

Curry Chicken Salad:  Spice is good for cooling off during the summer.  I enjoy curry salad with double the amount of curry called for in most recipes.  Apples, celery, almonds, and grapes add to the mix nicely.  Yes, I manage to sneak some lemon in with the honey mustard.

Shrimp Salad:  Grill a few shrimp, toss them on a bed of salad greens and instant meal.

Salmon or Red Snapper cooked on the grill is a summer favorite too.

Ice coffee:  I enjoy my hot tea or coffee in the morning no matter the temperature.  During the hot afternoon, I may have some ice coffee with milk and sugar.  It's different and something I certainly don't drink during the winter.

Ice cream:  I'm a purist.... bring on the vanilla!  I do try other flavors too, but all of them are vanilla based.  I can't remember the last time I had a milk shake, so vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit will work nicely.

Sorbet:  For this sweet treat, bring on the zing!! I like the Zesty Lemon sorbet as well as mango sorbet.  Top either of these with fresh blueberries, blackberries, and almonds for a really healthy treat.

Spa water:  My own blend of cucumber, lemon, mint, honey.  I may add orange slices too.

Water! Water! Water!  Probably the most important thing one can drink to stay cool.  I'm lucky as I do enjoy the taste of water.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Even though I recently wrote about strawberries, I feel like I just had to write again!  Being friends with many people on facebook has given me the opportunity to learn about new places in the area.  My friends know that I am a "foodie" and enjoy all kinds of food.  Today, I visited Iranian and Russian grocery stores.  Anyway, one of my friends was telling me about a farm about 15 miles from my house that has strawberries, squash, cabbage, and other kinds of produce for sale.  I went to their website and discovered that they were having a Strawberry Festival!! Only 15 miles away?  How could I NOT go to a strawberry festival.  This was their first festival and it was limited to only children picking the fresh berries (even children at heart like me)..  They have ordered many many more plants for next year's crop and wanted the kids to have the opportunity to pick their own berries.  After all, not many children grow up on farms where they pick their own produce.  I enjoyed watching the little ones find the reddest "bestest" berry on the plant!  They were so cute.  

I knew I could not pick any berries, but were there any for sale?  Off to visit the store attached to the farm.  Upon entering, the aroma of strawberry hit my senses and brought forth favorite childhood memories.  I inquired if they had berries for sale, and the answer was: "Yes!! we have some in the refrigerated area.".  I thought for a second  and told her I would take a quart.  She brought out the quart as per my request, I took one look at it, grinned,  and said that I would finish those walking to my car! No, a quart was certainly not enough for me.  I needed a gallon of berries!  Yes, a gallon was reasonable for this strawberry lover.  They were beautiful and were almost as delicious as the berries my "Papa Jimmy" grew at our house (what made those from my childhood the best was that they were grown by my papa!!).   

I took the berries outside, sat them on the picnic table and listened to the bluegrass music that they had hired for the festivities.  I sat and looked at those berries with anticipation of getting them home, cleaned, and used in desserts or yogart.  I couldn't wait!! I thought for a moment and remembered the bottled water that I had in my backpack. Yes, that would work wonderfully for cleaning a few berries.  I chatted with the owners of the farm who were very hospitable and welcomed me to come pick berries at a later date.  Arriving home, having eaten my quart of berries en route, I started sorting the rest.  I decided to freeze some of them for "emergency" use!  Out of the entire batch of berries, I think I only had a few that had "bruised" spots. 

It's amazing how one remembers how good a home grown berry tastes as compared to those purchased in the grocery store.  Granted, they aren't bad, but that ray of sunshine hitting the berry a little longer, gives it that sweetness that gets lost en route by truck.  I will return to pick the berries soon.  I don't mind picking blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries.... picking peaches I will leave to someone else (itchy, itchy).  I wonder where I can pick some blackberries and blueberries in the next few weeks.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Greek Easter

Greek Easter has always been a fun holiday for my family.  I must say that Greek cookies are some of my favorite cookies.  Sure, I have made my share of chocolate chip cookies (which I like very much), but when it comes down to favorites..they are Greek.  The Greek Easter cookie is special because I only make them once a year.  Is that the reason that they taste so good?  My brothers and I used to devour them during family gatherings.  Since they have Cognac in them (well, my favorite ones do), my aunt used to say: "you're going to get drunk you're eating so many cookies"!!  Yes, my aunt has a terrific sense of humor to this day (she is 89 now).  This year was no exception.  I made the batter the night before and spent all day rolling, shaping, and baking these delicious treats.  I must say that by the end of the day I was tired of smelling the sweet cookies bake.  I also had my fair share of  "samples" as I do only make them once a year!! I guess you could say that they are somewhat of a shortbread cookie: butter, cake flour, super fine sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cognac.  Doesn't get much simpler than that?  I use a recipe from the NY International cookbook, but I also have recipes in my many other Greek cookbooks that vary only slightly in ingredients.

Along with the cookies, and baklava, my brother did the honors of cooking a leg of lamb and beef tenderloin on the grill.  Many years, we have made whole lambs on the spit, but since this was a small family gathering, we opted for a leg of lamb.

Greek salad is also a "must" at any Greek gathering.  We could be having hot dogs, but by gosh there will be a Greek salad served as a side.  We had salad every night when I grew up, and I eat salad every day for lunch as well as have one most nights with my dinner.  If you are one to measure all ingredients, it is really difficult to tell how to make the salad.  This year, the honors went to my niece Lea.  Oil, lemon, wine vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper.  A taste here, a dash more of something, another taste, until it's just right.

Of course, no Greek meal would be complete without the Greek potatoes, and an appetizer of Kalamata olives, feta cheese, Greek marinated vegetables (my new find...not the Italian ones. Entirely different taste) and my favorite stuffed grape leaves.  We also had grilled Haloumi cheese in honor of my grandfather who is from Cyprus.  The cheese can be purchased at most "world" markets.  Grill over coals until it is golden brown on both sides (about 10 minutes), sprinkle with lemon juice (or basting butter, lemon, oregano, for lamb) before serving.  It's a treat  and something different to eat for an appetizer.

It doesn't have to be Easter for me to enjoy all of these foods of my childhood.  As a matter of fact, I just discovered that there is a Greek restaurant/market about 10 minutes from my home.  I think I'm a decent cook, but a Gyro is something that I can get at the restaurant when I have a craving for lamb, yet don't want to cook an entire leg.  I may try it this week.

Do you have a favorite Greek food?  Let me know... I may just make it for you one day!! OPA!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Polish Market

I enjoy all of the foods that I have ever had in European countries. I'm very open to trying new foods. I'm not sure about many of the foods in Asian countries, but I do like Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese. I'm sure there are many things I would be hard pressed to taste. This blog is about European cuisine, specifically Poland! In my refrigerator I have no less than 10 different picked items; three kinds of Greek olives, California olives, pickled vegetables, etc... Imagine my surprise when I found a Polish market!! There were so many varieties of pickled salads, cucumbers, and of course the infamous Polish dill pickle.

I purchased the pickled cabbage and dill pickles with peppers. I can't wait to try them. I may have kielbasa sausage tonight with a nice potato salad and my pickled vegetables. Since I was not heading home, the pierogi and salamis will have to wait until next time, as will the frozen stews. Her favorite was a bean stew which sounded very much like the Greek fasolatha (beans, tomato, onion, etc...). I was talking with a customer from Poland asking her about her favorite items, and watching what she put in her basket. She was more than thrilled to tell me about the items and her children quickly pointed out their favorite cookie. I happen to love hazelnuts too, so I purchased two packs of cookies. The raspberry syrup will be on my next shopping list too. I bet it makes a very refreshing summer drink with sparkling water.

As Easter season is just around the corner, they had beautiful painted Easter eggs. I had to purchase some of them. I remember my mom making beautiful Ukranian eggs with melted wax and paint. Mom used real eggs, and I'm not sure where they can be found since her passing several years ago. I'm sure they are at the house somewhere. The Polish eggs are painted on wood with a very high gloss paint. It has given me incentive to try yet another art project too.

They also had butter that was in the shape of a lamb for the Easter table as well as little candy filled Easter Baskets and dried flowers. These items all brought a smile to my face and seeing the little children get excited, even brought more joy!!

I don't really have a recipe to post as I will probably grill some sausage tonight and serve with steamed red potatoes served with butter and fresh dill.

The poppy seed cake, the herbal teas, the syrups, and the pierogis will call me back to this wonderful, friendly place. I even learned how to say "thank you" and "yes" in Polish. Why not thank the cashier in her native language. It's the least I can do for her kindness and willingness to help me and teach me about her beloved country!! Will Polish be my next language in which I learn some common polite phrases? Just to learn "thank you", "please", "how are you", etc.... will get one a smile. If you have a favorite Polish item for me to try, please let me know.

I thank you for reading this blog... or better yet: dzienkuje pronunctiuation is (jenn-koo-yeh) THANK YOU!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A cold one

I'm not really a beer drinker..... Ok, I take that back, I have had beer before while on vacation. I rarely drink, so it was quite something to officially be at the Haufbrauhaus in Munich Germany. What a lively place with music, tons of people (mostly tourist), and delicious German foods. The women who could carry 6 huge steins at once were quite impressive. I must say that I remember the beer went down quite smoothly over several hours of music, laughter, and food. The Germans certainly know how to put on a show, as the people were singing drinking songs, dancing, and having an all around great time. I honestly cannot think of any American drinking songs. I wish I understood all of those that I heard. As proof of my endeavor, I have the official "my personal" stein that I used. How else would anyone really believe that it was so big, and even more so that "tea-totaler" me, drank it. I also have my little stein from Austria that was gently placed in a huge vat of warm water to warm up the beer. I've never heard of such a thing, but that is what they did. Even now, I may have just a sip of a beer, but I prefer to have my water.

I'm sure that hot pretzels with sharp/tangy mustard don't go quite as well with a Coca cola or water, but that will have to do for me. I usually keep beer and wine in my refrigerator basically for cooking purposes, yet it's offered to someone wanting a drink of course. It's usually a Guinness Stout so that I can make my Guinness Stew. I also have some Belgian been because I have a Belgian cookbook that I use quite often. Being of Greek heritage, they don't have many recipes that include beer. I find it amusing for the novelty of it all as well as the taste that it imparts to the stews.

We had a recent snow in January of this year. Since most Americans like their beer chilled, how could I go through the snowy day (which turned out to be a week off of work) without using mother nature's ice. Always on the lookout for things to photograph, I had to have a chuckle and laugh as I was on my deck placing the beer just so in the six or seven inches of snow. My dog thought I was goofy, and even had that half tilted head looking at me with the bottle. He's used to the camera though. It was cold, but I persevered and took several photos. How can one not want a cold one after seeing this photo? Ah yes, the ultimate in chilling a beer-nature's way. Cheers!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snow Day.... Dinner

Day number 5 of not being able to drive out of my neighborhood. I probably can't even get out of my driveway. I believe I have the only driveway that is completely shaded. Roads and sunny areas finally melting. Being that I always have plenty of food in my pantry and freezer, I was wondering what to make for dinner last night. It was chilly in the house, and I "caved in " and turned up the thermostat a notch. Looking for something a little different, yet warming, I started looking in the pantry and freezer. I saw chopped spinach, bacon and chicken broth. I reached for the bacon and chicken broth and left the spinach for another day. I always keep bacon in the freezer as I'm not much of a traditional breakfast person (I rarely eat breakfast....although I have been enjoying the blueberry muffins I made the other day I have been eating at "brunch" time). Bacon and broth in hand, I headed to the pantry. Onions and potatoes in the pantry... Yes, I was feeling the warming comfort of soup.

I thawed the bacon quickly in the microwave, diced the pieces, then fried slowly until light brown. To the bacon drippings, I added one large chopped onion and black pepper and let it cook at very, very low heat. Now it was starting to smell really good. I was warming up already! After the onion was cooked until tender, I added 6 cups chicken broth (boxed or canned will work just fine, but homemade broth is so easy to prepare...and good too). I was pleased with this so far, then I spied the potatoes in the pantry. I cut several small potatoes to equal about 3 cups of 1 inch cubes. I put the potatoes into the chicken broth and cooked until tender. Although, I like to used dried beans, I always keep several cans of beans in my pantry when I want something in a hurry. Two cans of great northern beans seemed to fit the bill. I drained some of the liquid out of the can then poured them into the broth. Next, I looked to my spice cabinet to choose some herbs. I wanted it simple so I chose thyme. Why thyme? I don't know, but I had it in my head when I opened the pantry. Beans, thyme, onion, bacon were working for me then I spied it. Yes, the bottle that would definitely give me warmth....CAYENNE PEPPER!! Now, I go pretty easy on the cayenne pepper, but you may add as much/little/or none if you like. I probably only added about 1/4 a tsp of cayenne pepper. To my sons, 1/4 tsp is nothing. They like their food peppery hot!!

I let the soup cook a little more, then mashed about 1/2 cup of the potatoes with a fork and added them back to the soup. It's a trick my mom used to do to thicken the tomato sauce when she cooked squash and potatoes. Works like a charm. What's soup if it doesn't have a thick broth? After about 1 hour, the soup is ready to eat and enjoy. When I was getting a drink out of the refrigerator, the red and green bottle of Tabasco sauce seemed to magically jump to my hand (I keep a refrigerator shelf for my sons with all of their Tabasco, hot sauce, habanero sauces so they can be easily found by them.... you know the old adage that many people can't find a thing in the fridge unless it's right up front). A nice huge bowl of warming soup. I actually ate two huge bowls of soup it was so good. I could have actually eaten three bowls I was so darn impressed with the flavor, but a friend of mine wanted to play some on line chess, so I stopped at two. Plus, I don't want to embarrass even myself by eating 3 bowls of soup!! A nice green salad would be a nice accompaniment to the soup, but I settled for some hearty bread slices.

Bean and Bacon Soup
2 16 oz cans great northern beans
6-8 slices bacon (I like the thick cut)
6 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped roughly (It's a rustic soup...)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cayenne pepper (more if desired)
3 cups cubed potatoes (russet)
Tabasco sauce (as needed)

As I was eating the soup, I was thinking that I could be easily made with a "Mexican" flair by adding pinto beans, jalapeño peppers, cumin, and cilantro.... I'll try that next time! It's really a soup that can be made with many variations. During our rare snow days, you use what is in the pantry. No potatoes? Use rice or orzo. Let me know what you added to your soup!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day!!

Two words that bring joy to every child's heart... (and some adults too!) "SNOW DAY". This is especially true in the south where we don't get snow that often. Well, we are now on our 3rd snow day and I'm loving every minute of it!! Six inches of snow were measured on my deck and I would swear that there had to be even more!! So beautiful to watch, so peaceful and calming.

There are certain foods that you have to have on a snow day. The first and most important would probably be something hot to drink!! When I was visiting Germany and Austria in the dead of winter many years ago, I learned to drink plenty of hot coffee, tea, lemonade, wine, and of course the terrific cocoa in Vienna. After venturing on a walk in the woods for a snow "photo shoot", I was quite chilly when I came home. Nothing to warm one better than a nice mug of hot cocoa sitting by a roaring fire!

I will admit that I am a cocoa "snob". If I see a cocoa that I've never seen, I will purchase it. If it's in a tin that's even better (I still have an old Hershey cocoa tin in my attic). I used to have a big collection of cookie and cocoa tins in my kitchen, but they have made their way to the attic as I have changed my decor. I always make my cocoa homemade (never, never, never will I use the little packets that you "just add water")

The recipe is very easy... this works for me most times. I fill my favorite coffee mug with milk, pour that into a pot and add 1 heaping tsp sugar, and 1 heaping teaspoon cocoa to the mug. I add enough milk to make the mixture smooth. I heat the milk in the pan until it just starts to simmer. Keep a watch on it as when milk boils, it boils all at the same time. It will be to the top of your pot before you know it!! I also found some huge roasting marshmallows at the grocery store that are the biggest I've ever seen. I sometimes add one of those to the milk and let it melt in the mixture. I add a touch of vanilla (probably 1/4 tsp) and a tiny pinch of salt. Pour hot milk into mug, stir and enjoy. Even with all of that sugar, I will even top it off with some whipped cream!! Needless to say, this cocoa is meant to be savored like a fine wine! (grin)

Variations to enjoying your hot cocoa:

1. Stir with a peppermint stick for a festive touch

2. Put a stick of cinnamon and a whole clove in the milk when it heats for a spicy drink. I've even heard of putting a touch of cayenne pepper in the drink, but I've not been bold enough to try that!!

We all have our favorite cups for cocoa. My oldest son, who is 22, has a Tazmanian Devil mug that he has had since he was a young boy!! Many cups of cocoa have been sipped from that mug. My personal favorites are any of my "Paris" mugs which remind me of my wonderful days spent in that city!

Next post: favorite snow day lunch and dinner!!


Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar