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Dear Readers,

As children, my sisters and I enjoyed dyeing Easter eggs almost as much as hunting for our Easter baskets.  I say almost because one year I found my basket in the bath tub, of all places.  Anyway, back to our egg dyeing.

Mom purchased Paas Egg Dye because she thought it was the best brand for producing vivid colors.  Two  tablets were placed in each deep bowl, along with a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar and boiling water.  We delighted in stirring the water until the tablets completely dissolved.

Our family dyed about five dozen eggs each Easter.  (It’s a good thing we loved egg salad sandwiches!)  The colors were red, green, yellow,, orange, purple and blue.  My favorite were the  purple eggs.  The eggs were left in the solution for a long time to achieve a deep tone.  That meant we were constantly lifting them up with a large spoon to see if they were dark enough.  No pale eggs for the Weickel family.

Once they reached the desired hue, they were carefully placed on the cardboard drying rack that was converted from the Paas box.  After the egg was dry and cool, Mom used a soft white cloth to apply a small amount of shortening.  The egg was then buffed to produce a glowing finish.  On a few eggs, we drew flowers, crosses, or printed our name with the small clear crayon that Paas provided.  But the final egg was the special egg!  It was placed in each color and the end result was always the same:  a brownish, grayish egg we named the “Weickel” egg because we were certain that we were the only family that had created this particular Easter tradition.

Happy Easter and remember to always

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

As part of my morning ritual, I take the empty glass of water from my bedside table to the dishwasher in the kitchen.  It was there I glanced up to see part of a big colorful rainbow from the window.  This is the first one I had seen this year.  It is such a thrilling sight to observe the many tones on the spectrum from red to violet glowing in the bright morning sunlight.  My walking partner and good friend had to be alerted to this glorious display of nature before it faded away.  She was glad I telephoned her and even had to step up on a chair to get a glimpse of the rainbow from her bedroom window.

It wasn’t a perfectly arched rainbow because of the cloud configuration above the mountain but it did shine for over two hours.  My friend and I took our usual morning trek going east on Country Club Road.  When we retraced our steps going west, the rainbow was our focal point on the path home.  As we finished our walk, my friend joyously remarked how fortunate we both were to be able to enjoy this gift of nature from God.  She also declared that she “stops to smell the roses and brakes for rainbows”.  Wise words, indeed!

Keep smilin’!

 

Dear Readers,

I’ve been counting calories since the first of the year and wanted to make something that was low in fat and calories.  Found this recipe that I had cut out of a magazine years ago in an old folder.  Tried it and found it very tasty.  Maybe you will want to try it too!

White Bean and Sausage Rigatoni

8 oz. rigatoni pasta (5 cups)

8 oz. fully cooked turkey kielbasa

1/2 of a 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed

2-15 oz. cans low-sodium stewed tomatoes

1-15 oz. can great northern beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 of a 6-oz. can tomato paste

1/4 cup dry red wine or reduced sodium chicken broth

1-1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, crushed

1/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan prepare pasta according to package directions, drain and return to pan.  Bias-slice kielbasa.  Drain thawed spinach well.  Add kielbasa, spinach, tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, wine or broth, and Italian seasoning to the cooked pasta.  Stir to mix.  Spoon mixture into a 2-quart casserole.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Makes 4 servings.  Each serving contains 498 calories and 7 grams total fat.

Enjoy and remember to

Keep smilin’!

 

Dear Readers,

The other day my sister and I viewed the movie, The Butler, which chronicles the life of a black White House butler, Cecil Gaines, who served eight presidents. Forest Whitaker along with Oprah Winfrey, who plays his wife, Gloria, portrays the story of a middle class black family in Washington, DC where one son becomes a freedom fighter in the south and his brother volunteers to serve in the Vietnam war.  The history of the civil rights movement together with the violence and race riots of the 60′s are vividly depicted in the movie.  It is a deeply moving story of this loyal White House butler and his personal struggles with civil rights.

At the conclusion of the movie, my sister remarked that we were pretty sheltered from the civil rights movement and all that it entailed.  I quickly agreed but then on the drive home I remembered an incident caused by racial strife that I will never forget.

It happened like this.  My Dad and I stopped at the neighborhood filling station to get gasoline for my car.  It was a warm sunny, Saturday afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky during the summer of 1968.  (Starting in May of that same year, race riots and protests filled the streets of the West End of Louisville, following news of a possible reinstatement of a white policeman for beating a black man.  Stores were looted, cars were overturned and fires were ignited.  But we lived in the East End of Louisville and were not touched by the riots.)

In the 60′s gas was pumped by an attendant, so we waited in the car as the owner, a man we had known for a long time, came out to fill up the tank, along with checking under the hood and finally cleaning the windshield.  While he was pumping the gas, a young black man drove up in his car and asked for the keys to the men’s restroom.  The owner refused to hand over the keys and soon the two men were arguing loudly.  Suddenly the owner called the young man the “N” word and pulled a handgun out of his jacket and pointed it directly at the other man.  My Dad and I felt like we had a front row seat in a horror movie.  The scene played out like slow motion when the gun was being drawn, as we sat and watched in stunned silence.

It seemed like an eternity until the young man turned around, headed to his car and left.  But as he drove off, he shouted “tonight you will burn, baby, burn”.  The owner finished pumping the gas and I paid him.  Not a word was uttered by any of the three of us.  I couldn’t drive out of that filling station fast enough.  I just wanted to be safe at home and away from that scene.  My Dad and I couldn’t believe what we had just witnessed.  We were both scared to death!

As I recall that incident of more than 40 years ago, I wonder why my Dad and I didn’t ask the owner why he felt he had to draw a gun after a simple request by the young black man.  We knew he was a “hot head” but never thought his anger would drive him to point a gun at another human being.  Thank God no one was shot or filled on that warm Saturday afternoon in Louisville in 1968.

Dear Readers,

I love chili and enjoy collecting various recipes for it.  I couldn’t imagine what “Barbecued Lentil Chili” would taste like;  so I tried it and was very pleasantly surprised.  It is easy to prepare, low in fat and calories but is a very hearty soup just perfect for a cold winter day. 

Barbecued Lentil Chili

5 cups vegetable or chicken broth

12 ounces to 16 ounces brown lentils (see notes)

1 – 14 oz. can reduced-sodium diced tomatoes

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups chopped green bell pepper

4 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 cup prepared barbecue sauce of choice (see notes)

Bring the broth to a boil in a 4-1/2 quart Dutch oven or soup pot.  Meanwhile, pick through the lentils,checking for stones or debris.  Rinse and drain the lentils.  When the broth boils, add the lentils and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, and cook at a very slow boil, covered(crack the lid to vent if the pot threatens to boil over), for 20 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with their juice to the pot.  Add the onion, green pepper, garlic and barbecue sauce.  Simmer 15 minutes, covered, stirring frequently.  Add a little more water or vegetable stock if all of the moisture evaporates.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Add hot pepper sauce if you like.

Notes:  Some lentil packages are 12 ounces and some are 16, but both work equally well in this recipe.  Any barbecue sauce that you enjoy will work.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Each serving contains 289 calories, 2 grams of fat and 17 grams of protein.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Saw this recipe in the Costco Connection Magazine that was submitted by a Costco customer.  Tried it and really like it – so did “hubby”.  In fact he remarked that it was perfect with a cold beer!

Quick Black Bean Soup

2 cans organic black beans

1 cup low-sodium salsa

1 cup chicken broth

1 to 2 teaspoons taco seasoning (recipe follows)

Chopped cilantro

Tortilla strips

Add two cans of organic black beans to your blender.  Then add 1 cup salsa and blend until it is at the desired consistency.  Add about 1 cup chicken broth to thin out soup.  Stir in taco seasoning and transfer to saucepan and heat.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and crispy tortilla strips.

Makes 2 hearty servings.

Taco Seasoning:

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1-1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Mix together and store in air-tight container.

Hope you enjoy the soup and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

A number of years ago my husband gave me an interesting cookbook for Christmas entitled “Recipes 1-2-3″ by Rozanne Gold.  Ms. Gold contends that one can prepare “fabulous food using only three ingredients”.  She does not count water, salt or pepper as ingredients.  I decided to see if her premise was true by making the Cannoli Custard recipe.  The result was delicious and I want to share the recipe with you.  I will quote from her informative and interesting cookbook.

“Cannoli” Custard

(Clemenza, in the movie The Godfather, says “Leave the gun.  Take the cannolis.”  I say, keep the custard.  Who needs the shells?”)

2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese

9 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

3/4 teaspoon rum extract

Gently whip the ricotta, sugar, and rum extract in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Do not overblend.  Divide equally among 3 or 4 martini glasses.  Chill well.  Sprinkle additional confectioners’ sugar, through a coarse sieve, over the top of custard just before serving.  Serves 4.

Ms. Gold suggests some add-ons:  Fold in 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips or white raisins plumped in rum.  Sprinkle crushed amaretti cookies or grated chocolate on top.

Enjoy and remember to always

Keep smilin’!

A Magical Month

Dear Readers,

One of the first things my newly pregnant daughter asked me was “Mom, can you come and help us with the new baby?”  “Certainly”, I happily replied.  What mother could resist an offer like this.

Our first grandson was due August 9; so it was planned that my husband and I would drive to Chicago a day after he was born and my return airline reservation was booked for August 31.  Lev Henry surprised us with an early arrival around 10 PM on July 30.  It took a day or two to pack our bags and then drive to Chicago.  We arrived on Saturday afternoon, August 3.

What a pleasure to hold our newborn baby grandson.  My daughter and son-in-law were thrilled but exhausted.  An unexpected caesarian section complicated matters.  They seemed relieved at our arrival.  My husband and I got busy buying groceries, preparing meals and catching up on laundry.  After four days, my husband left to attend to other family matters and I was alone with the new family.

The first week flew by as we all tried to get used to this 7 pound-13 ounce responsibility.  I acted as cheerleader for my daughter’s nursing efforts and the 5 AM relief for my son-in-law’s night watch.  We were a team and we all knew it.  Our main goal was to keep Lev fed, dry and in clean clothes.  There were systems to be implemented for this baby.  Even the chore of a baby bath meant the towels, soap, cotton balls and water basins had to be gathered up and placed in a convenient area; not to mention the diaper changing table where tiny pampers were stacked and wipes were nearby.  Even with all this organization, Lev managed to pee on all of us during diaper changes.

By week two we were all feeling more assured but extremely tired.  We tried out the new stroller to take Lev for a walk.  Although it was state-of-the-art equipment, we still had to learn how to assemble it and strap him in.

For four consecutive Tuesdays, I bought a fancy cupcake at the Swedish-American bakery on Clark Street so that we could sing “Happy Birthday” to Lev.  He was only four weeks old and had been sung to four times!  I’m sure there’s no longer a celebration as he marks another week of living.  But it was a welcome treat for all of us during this first month.

I awakened every morning at 5 AM.  Most days Lev had just concluded nursing, so I could rock him to sleep while Momma and Dad got some much needed sleep.  Lev and I experienced many sunrises together.

The four weeks hurried by and soon it was time to say goodbye.  Lev has a two foot tall band of chalkboard paint surrounding the perimeter of his room.  His mother invited me to sign the board.  After careful consideration I wrote “Thank you Lev for 28 days of August, 2013.  Love, Mimi”.

The last morning arrived and as usual I was up at 5 AM.  Bags were packed, the laundry was caught up and the fridge was neat and clean.  I knew I could leave in good conscience.  But that morning after I rocked Lev to sleep, I couldn’t let go of him and put him in his crib.  Not today with his sweet baby smell and so soft baby skin all warm and cozy.  I sat for three hours rocking and cradling him as I knew that a 67 year old woman would never have this opportunity again!

Recently I told a tennis friend about this special three hour rock-a-thon.  She said not to worry because now Lev would never forget me as he’ll always remember my heart beat.  I’m not certain this is true, but I like to think that it is.  One thing I know for sure, I’ll always remember the special time we spent together during the “magical month” of August, 2013!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Recently readers of the Raleigh News and Observer were asked to submit recipes of dishes that were made as comfort food when they were children.  Amy Jackson of Chocowinity, N.C. entered this recipe.  It sounded good, so I tried it and my husband and I enjoyed it very much.  The following is a direct quote from the newspaper:

“My mother made a dinner dish that I loved.  She calls it “fried spinach”.  It is really good!  You brown a pound of hamburger with lots of garlic.  Drain the fat and add in a box of thawed chopped spinach.  Cover the pan for a few minutes to let it warm up.  Then add four eggs that have been beaten with some black pepper.  Stir until the eggs cook.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  It’s not really fried and has a similar taste to Italian wedding soup.”

Notes:  I used a 20 oz. package of seasoned Italian ground turkey and added an additional egg to the mixture.  A thawed 10 oz, box of frozen chopped spinach is just the right amount.  I also used 3 cloves of crushed garlic.

Hope you enjoy it and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

In June, 1963 I graduated from Ursuline Academy in Louisville, Kentucky.  Three of my former classmates are organizing a 50 year reunion in October.  I share a particularly strong bond with one of these organizers as we were neighbors for 10 years.  Only two homes separated us on East Breckinridge Street.  We were born 10 days apart at St. Anthony’s Hospital in September, 1945.  She was baptized in St. Therese Church on the Sunday I was born.  Her maternal grandmother, Mrs. Schneider, was my next-door neighbor.  We attended four years of grade school together until her family moved from the neighborhood.  Luckily, we reconnected as freshmen at Ursuline Academy.

We are currently renewing an old friendship via e-mail.  She recently confessed that she was irked that she had forgotten a lot of details about our old neighborhood.  So I’m writing this post to refresh some memories for her and to give you, the readers, a slice of life on East Breckinridge Street during the 1950′s.

At the beginning of the block sat Seidenfaden’s Cafe, which we kids referred to as the “corner beer joint”.  It was an interesting establishment and I wrote about it in detail on the blog on July 23, 2010 in a post entitled “The Cranberry Man”.  (To read this post, just scroll down on the right margin to July, 2010 and look for post on July 20.)

My friend’s yard was the center of many neighborhood activities and since it had the biggest backyard, it was a natural place for kids to congregate to play.  And play we did – games like “peggy” a kind of softball, “red rover” and “hide-n-seek”.  The older boys, Danny, Lonnie and Joey would let us girls play when they felt benevolent.  I can remember wetting my pants as a 6 year old in my neighbor’s garage because of the excitement and anticipation of possibly being “found”!  If a ball from “peggy”sailed over the bordering fence, Mrs. Wahl never returned it.  She contended that we were making too much noise and that was just punishment for her inconvenience.  We also played “swing the statue” where someone (usually a boy) swung us around and wherever we landed, we had to freeze.  It was almost always an unusually awkward position.  The swinger was blindfolded and had to walk around and try to guess where and who we were.

The Connells’ yard served as our neighborhood park.  One minute it was a baseball diamond, the next a “jungle” where we climbed the trees to avoid the lions and tigers!  The yard sparkled on hot summer nights with flashing lights of fireflies while kids tried to capture them in a wide-mouth jar.  We always knew when to return home.  St. Therese Church bells tolled at noon for the Angelus and that was our cue to rush home for lunch (a bologna sandwich on white bread with mayo and potato chips).  At sunset the play stopped and we retreated to our upstairs un-air-conditioned bedrooms exhausted and ready to rest for another day of endless summer fun.

Well, Martha, I hope you enjoyed reliving these precious memories and that the rest of my readers have a better understanding of a kid’s life during the summers of the 50′s on East Breckinridge Street.  I will try to record more memories in the months to come.  In the meantime, be sure to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

I had some russet baking potatoes left from a ten pound bag I had purchased and decided to see if they could be used in a potato salad.  Here is what I came up with:

Mimi’s Chunky Baked Potato Salad

5 med. russet potatoes, baked and cut into 1-inch cubes with skin on

4 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dill pickle, cubed

mayonnaise

celery salt and pepper to taste

Coat scrubbed potatoes in olive oil and pierce all over with a fork.  Generously salt and pepper them.  Lay them directly on oven shelf and bake for 45 to 60 minutes until done.  Let them cool thoroughly and then cut in 1″ cubes with skin on.  Add eggs, dill pickle, celery salt and pepper.  Using a spatula, mix in enough mayonnaise to moisten salad.  Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.  Makes a large bowl of potato salad.

Enjoy and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

The other day I noted a bumper sticker that read “Well-Behaved Women Never Make History!”  The implication was that one has to be loud and possibly somewhat rude to be remembered and acclaimed.

My Mom was neither loud nor rude but she has left her mark on the world in a quiet and unassuming manner.  In fact, one small act of kindness by her is still being remembered and saluted more than 50 years after it happened.

It occurred while I was a high school student during the early 60′s.  My fellow classmate, who is organizing our 50th reunion, wrote and told me how she still remembered my Mom and her thoughtfulness.  Let me quote from her recent e-mail:

“I was thinking about your Mom the other night when I was taking out some baked potatoes.  Remember there were 8 children in my family.  I loved and still do every minute of that.  But one time I went home with you for a while and your Mother invited me to dinner.  And she served baked potatoes.  Boy I loved them!  At home we did do a lot of potato dishes but never baked.  Just the recipes that made them stretch. I did a lot of the home cooking in high school.  One night I wanted to make them for the family and surprise Mom.  I really didn’t see what your Mom did to them to make them so good.  So I called her and asked her to talk me through the recipe.  I had a pencil and two sheets of paper ready for her words of wisdom.  She was so kind and calm while we talked.  She went step by step.  She was a dream.  Well can you believe it.  You just wash them and put them in the oven!!  Julia Child, eat your heart out.  I bet your Mom had a few good giggles out of that one.  But you know she didn’t patronize me and took my request seriously.  I loved her for that”.

I’m sure my Mom sensed my friend was in need of a little motherly attention and freely gave it to her.  It was never forgotten.  So you see, you don’t have to misbehave to be remembered.  Her one small act of love and kindness lives on long after she has left this earth!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

I usually take a morning walk around 8 AM but this Saturday it was later than usual because of various household chores.  My excursion started around 1 PM and there was plenty of activity on the streets.  It was a clear blue-sky day with a temperature of 73 degrees; folks were most anxious to be out and about enjoying it.

A beer festival was being held at Moore Square Park, a block up from my home.  Huge white tents were erected for sampling the micro-brews.  Large groups of young people gathered in these tents where the noise level was a fever pitch.  I guess the more beer you sample, the louder you talk!

My ears were relieved when the walk took me beyond the park where I was treated with some colorful sights of spring.  I strolled by white and pink dogwood trees, a blooming tulip tree, rows of purple, gold and white pansies, deep red and bright yellow tulips.  The azalea bushes were laden with white, red and lavender blooms.  Clusters of purple and white irises stood proudly and gently swayed in the breeze.  What a beautiful spring feast for my eyes.

Seaboard Station, a retail and dining area near the old train tracks, was just around the corner.  Outdoor patios were crowded with diners munching on hamburgers and fries while sipping sweet tea or beer.  When springtime arrives, everyone wants to eat outdoors and enjoy the warm afternoon.  Throngs of shoppers mobbed the grounds of the Logan Trading Co. selecting all types of potting plants.  Gardeners enthusiastically eyed the rows of purple, pink and white petunias along with trays of orange, yellow and coral gerber daisies.

At the far end of the parking lot there was an exhibition of Euro-bikes which featured antique scooters and Bucati motorbikes.  These fine machines were polished and gleaming in the sunlight.  Owners proudly stood beside them.  In one corner a band was playing some “down ‘n dirty” rock ‘n roll songs.  I couldn’t help from smiling just listening to this music from the past.

Near the end of the walk, a horse-drawn carriage clip-clopped down the street.  In it sat a man and a woman eagerly looking, while listening to the driver, who was most likely divulging the history of the buildings on the route.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic, so the talkative driver could lean back to converse with the couple while leisurely guiding the horse and carriage down the street.

All in all, it was a great day to be “alive and kicking” in Raleigh, NC.

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

I made this salad recently as part of a ladies luncheon and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  It is healthy and so easy to prepare; especially if you use canned, rinsed black beans.  It would be good added to a tossed salad or used as a filling along with chopped tomatoes and lettuce in a wrap.  Try it – you will like it!  I cut this recipe out of the Raleigh News and Observer.

Black Bean Salad with Feta Cheese and Cilantro

2 cups dry black beans (or 4 cups cooked beans)

1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

2 ounces pasteurized feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the beans and soak them in cold water to cover overnight.  The next day, drain the beans and place them in a pot with cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.

Combine the beans, onion, cilantro and most of the cheese in a bowl.  Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well.  Let the beans marinate for 10 minutes and toss again.  Correct the seasoning before serving, adding salt and lemon juice to taste.  Garnish with remaining cheese.

Makes 4 servings.  Each serving contains 335 calories, 11 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbohydrates and 17 grams of protein.

Enjoy and remember to always

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

We’re having our annual Super Bowl party and the main dish will be the “Super Bowl Chili Dogs”.  Take bun length all beef hot dogs and cover them with “Carolina Hot Dog Chili”, some chopped onion and shredded cheddar cheese.  Fill a fresh hot dog bun with these ingredients and you’re ready to eat a “Super Bowl Chili Dog”.  The recipe for the hot dog chili was adapted from “Desperation Entertaining” by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross and was printed in the Raleigh, NC News and Observer.  This chili is very tasty and can be made two days in advance.  Mimi guarantees that this chili dog will be the best you have ever eaten!  Have fun watching the Super Bowl.  Yeah Ravens!!!

Carolina Hot Dog Chili

1-1/4 pounds ground beef

1 cup chopped onion

1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon cider or white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

Place the beef, onion and 2 cups water in a Dutch oven or soup pot over high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and stir to begin breaking up the meat.

Add the tomato paste, ketchup, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper, if using.  Stir well until the tomato paste and ketchup are dissolved and the meat is mostly broken up.

Continue to cook at a simmer, stirring about every 5 minutes for a total of about 30 minutes.  As the chili thickens, you may need to reduce the heat to medium-low or low so it doesn’t stick.  Refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days, or freeze in small freezer bags for up to 6 months.  Thaw or reheat in a microwave stirring often.

Yields about 1 quart.  There are 55 calories and 4 grams of fat per each 2-tablespoon serving.

Enjoy and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Have you ever heard of triskaidekaphobia?  Well, neither have I.  But according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it’s the fear of the number thirteen.  Does that mean the with the new year of 2013, cases of this phobia will be reported?  I certainly hope not; thirteen seems pretty harmless to me.  We don’t need another negative thing to contend with in our already chaotic lives.  Mimi’s thinking positive about 2013.  It’s a new beginning where we can put fears behind us and look forward to the future.

An author who wrote a book about happiness appeared on the Today Show this morning to give some tips on happiness.  She noted that one of the things that can give us pleasure is making up the bed in the morning.  It provides us with a sense of order and control.  No matter how busy the day becomes, at least our bed is neat and tidy.  I agree with her completely.  There is nothing more depressing after a long day, than to enter the bedroom and see a messy, unmade bed.  Her other tip for happiness is the joy of inhaling a pleasing scent, such as the smell of freshly laundered towels, citrus and spices in the kitchen or burning a fragrant candle.  Something as simple as this can bring a smile to our face.  Sounds like a wonderful idea to me.  Maybe just the smell of chocolate chip cookies will make me happy!!!

My final thought concerns taking down the Christmas tree and other decorations.  When I lived in PA and had small children, it was a sad chore, indeed.  The whole house looked bare and colorless, and the thought of the long, cold January days ahead didn’t help.  But since we are retired and live in a warm, sunny climate, the chore is not so dreaded.  Our little three foot artificial Christmas tree is disassembled in fifteen minutes; and then I’m ready to grab my tennis racquet and head for the neareast court!

Happy New Year to all of you and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Easy Salsa Meatloaf

Dear Readers,

This is my last posting of 2012 and I decided a recipe was a good way to end the year.  We enjoyed this meatloaf a few weeks ago.  It is quick, delicious and easy to prepare.  What else could a cook ask for?  Tinkerbell 15 submitted the recipe to allrecipes.com and I’m glad she did.

Easy Salsa Meatloaf

1 pound ground beef sirloin

1/2 cup salsa

1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

3 cloves garlic, minced

dried parsley to taste

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  In a large bowl, mix the ground sirloin, salsa, breadcrumbs, cheese, egg and garlic.  Season with parsley, salt and pepper.  Transfer to a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

3.  Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

Note:  I used “Newman’s Own” mild chunky salsa.  It is flavorful and all profits go to charity.

Enjoy and remember to always

Keep smilin’.

Dear Reader’s

As a change from the usual tossed salad for dinner, I decided to prepare broccoli slaw.  Bought a 12 ounce bag of Marketside Broccoli Slaw from Wal-Mart and proceeded to “doctor it up” with a few extra ingredients.  Used  a recipe for Coleslaw Dressing I found on Epicurious.com.  Here are the results.  (My husband really enjoyed it!)

Fast and Easy Broccoli Slaw

1 – 12 oz. pkg. Marketside Broccoli Slaw

3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

4 tablespoons dried cranberries

Dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons apple-cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

In small bowl combine dressing ingredients.  Combine dressing with broccoli slaw, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries.  Mix thoroughly and refrigerate a couple of hours before serving.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

Low-Fat Pasta Dish

Dear Readers,

Came across this dish when sorting through my collecion of recipes.  It looked interesting so I decided to prepare it.  Can’t give anyone credit for it because I copied it onto a scrap of paper with no title but with the note that it contained 231 calories and 4 grams of fat in each serving.  Had it for dinner last night and even though the ingredients are simple, it was quite tasty.  I’d like to share it with you.

Low-Fat Pasta Dish

8 ounces linguine

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Cook linguine and drain.

2.  In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil.  Saute onion and garlic about 3 minutes.

3.  Stir in tomatoes, zucchini, vinegar and salt; cook, stirring as needed, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.  Stir in linguine; cook, tossing constantly until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.  Top with cheese.  Makes 4 servings.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

I found this cookie recipe in a recent “Costco Connection” magazine.  My husband declared it one of the best cookies I’ve ever baked.  I must admit I agreed.  The combination of chocolate chips and dried cherries is a winning one.

Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies

4.5 ounces (about1 cup) flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1  large egg

2/3 cup dried tart cherries

3 tablespoons Kirkland’s semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cooking spray

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.  Combine flour and next 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk.  Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended.  Add vanilla and egg; beat well.  With mixer at low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined.  Stir in cherries and chocolate chips.

2.  Drop by tablespoonsful 2 inches apart onto baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 12 minutes or just until set.  Remove from oven; cool on pans 5 minutes.  Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Makes about 30 cookies.  Each cookie contains 80 calories and 2.7 grams of fat.

Note: The next time I bake these cookies, I will add two extra tablespoons of chocolate chips.  I used Trader Joe’s Dried Pitted Tart Montmorency Cherries that come in an eight ounce package.  Instead of coating the baking sheets with cooking spray, I lined them with aluminum foil.  It makes cleaning up a lot easier.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

You may be wondering who Betty and Sally are.  Well, they are playmates of my two granddaughters.  But they are not human!  Let me explain further.

Betty, whose full name is “Betty Boomerang” is a roly-poly penguin-type stuffed bird.  Her fur is purple with bands of fluorescent lime green fur and turquoise fabric that covers her chest and belly.  A set of two black eyes are narrowly placed above her bright orange beak.  Her webbed feet are also brint orange.  A shock of baby blue hair springs from her head.  A shelf in the toy department of Wal-Mart was her first home.

Betty Boomerang became a part of a game that we played with our first granddaughter every time she visited.  Emily had to guess where Betty was hiding.  We would search under beds, in closets, on shelves, behind doors and even in the shower for her.  It became such a ritual that as soon as Emily walked through the front door, her first words were “Where’s Betty Boomerang hiding today?”

When her younger sister, Maggie, arrived, I knew she would enjoy a stuffed playmate of her own.  So “Silly Sally” became a member of the family.  She’s a yellow furry chick with golden velvet beak and legs to match.  She has the same black eyes as Betty and sports a shimmery yellow ribbon bow under her chin.  A tuft of white hair emerges from the top of her head.  Maggie loves investigating the various hiding places of Sally and is thrilled when she discovers her.

We are returning to California in a few weeks.  So the stuffed playmates will be placed on a closet shelf for their winter hibernation,  and the  girls will bid them farewell pretty soon.  I just hope that when we return next spring, they haven’t outgrown their furry playmates:  Betty Boomerang and Silly Sally!  I know Mimi won’t!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Fall is the perfect time for homemade soup; especially vegetable soup.  I’ve been making this soup for years but one day I decided to measure precisely all the ingredients and commit the recipe to paper.  It was my Dad’s idea to add hard-boiled eggs and lemon juice and I think it is a good one.

Hope you like it!

Mimi’s Vegetable Soup

1-1/2 lbs. soup bones

1/1/2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into cubes

64 oz. V-8 vegetable juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 medium potatoes, diced

2 medium turnips, peeled and diced

1-16 oz. pkg. frozen mixed vegetables

(peas, carrots, corn, green beans and lima beans)

3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

In medium saucepan, cover bones with water; bring to boil and then simmer for 1 hour.  Let cool and cut any meat off bones.  Discard bones and strain broth of impurities.  Have broth and meat ready to mix into soup pot.  (This can be done day before or can be skipped altogether; but the bone broth adds more flavor to the soup than water.)

Brown cubed stewing beef and onions in two tablespoons vegetable oil in large, deep soup pot over medium-high heat for about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add V-8 juice, frozen mixed vegetables, potatoes, turnip and sweet potato along with 2 cups of the bone broth.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 to 2 hours.  Be sure potatoes and turnips are cooked through.  Turn off soup.  Add lemon juice, sliced eggs and chopped parsley.  Mix well.  Soup can be served immediately or let cool for 30 minutes; then refrigerate and heat up the next day.  If soup is not served immediately, wait to add eggs until right before serving.

This makes a lot of soup.  It can be frozen.  Omit hard-boiled eggs and leave 1 inch head space in freezer container; and cool completely in fridge before freezing.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

My granddaughter is having a birthday party for some school and playmates on a Saturday when Mimi and Papa will be away.  So a small family celebration was planned for the week before.

“Little Love” requested a birthday cake from the Square Rabbit Bakery in downtown Raleigh, NC.  Her friend had a cake from there at his party and she declared it was delicious.  A trip was scheduled to visit the bakery to select a cake.  The birthday girl was so excited about the selection, that she skipped the entire way to the bakery, which is about two blocks away from our condo.

This five year old had definite ideas about her cake.  A big green 5 was to be placed in the center along with “Happy Birthday” and her name written around the edge.  A multi-color train of red, blue and purple was requested.  The flavor of the four layer cake was yellow with lemon mousse filling and white buttercream frosting.  Sounded yummy to me.  We sampled a cupcake flavored like the cake and agreed it was very tasty.  The birthday cake was going to be wonderful!

Party hats, paper plates, napkins and matching cups were procured from the local dollar store along with five helium balloons:  a pink heart, red, green and purple stars and a round “Happy Birthday” balloon.  The balloons were anchored by tying the attached ribbons to plastic jars of playdoh.

At 3 PM everything was ready.  Balloons were arranged in a corner where they bobbed up and down; gaily wrapped presents in gift bags were lined up on the dining room buffet; and Betty Boomerang along with Silly Sally had their birthday hats on and were ready to party.  (Betty Boomerang and Silly Sally are two stuffed animals that are beloved by my granddaughters.  I’ll have to tell you about them on another day.)

Birthday girl was very excited especially when she saw her cake.  Five sparkling candles were thoughtfully placed by her in a row across the colorful train.  Lights were turned off; “Happy Birthday” was sung and candles were gleefully blown out.  Everyone enjoyed the cake and then the presents were opened.  (In the mind of this five year old, cake eating came before presents!)  Wrapping paper littered the floor and balloons floated toward the ceiling.  The party was over.  But I don’t really know who had the best time – my granddaughter or me!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

The highlight of a summer Sunday in my family was Sunday dinner.  (When I refer to “dinner”, I mean the mid-day meal because we called the evening meal “supper”.)  Sunday dinner was served at 11:30 AM, which meant that Mom attended the 5 AM Mass at St. Therese Church on Kentucky Street.  As soon as she returned from Mass, meal preparation was begun.  Crispy fried chicken was the favored main entree along with fresh green beans cooked for hours with a ham hock, and creamy mashed potatoes that were mashed by hand with an old metal potato masher.  (After Mom died, it was one of the treasures I retrieved from our family kitchen on Breckinridge Street.)  Summer meant fresh “combination” salad, which was a mixture of chopped fresh tomatoes, cukes and green pepper combined with mayo, salt and pepper.  It was cool and refreshing.  Mouth-watering homemade pies were offered for dessert.  In early summer, Mom baked strawberry and strawberry-custard pies.  During the months of July and August, peach and peach-custard pies graced the table.  One pie was not enough for the family as we craved the cold pie leftovers for breakfast the next morning.

After dinner, when the dishes were washed, hand-dried and put away, Mom would relax on the back porch swing to read the Sunday newspaper and Dad would retire to a pallet on the floor for a summer nap.

At least once a month, my Mom’s sister, Martha (Aunt Tubby) arrived for Sunday dinner in her light blue Studebaker sedan.  After dinner she would drive our family (we didn’t own a car) to Calvary Cemetery to visit the graves of Grandma and Grandpa Harris, where we offered a prayer for the repose of their souls.  My sister and I loved playing in the parked Studebaker, pretending we were driving.  We didn’t even mind the inferno-like temperature of the car as it sat in the summer sun.  A little sweat was a small price to pay for an afternoon of entertainment.

Some Sundays my Dad would take us to the “Broadway” picture show to see a couple of movies.  The theater was dark and cool with frosty air-conditioning.  Dad treated us to a large box of popcorn.  It was a great way to spend a hot Sunday afternoon.  We begged Mom to join us but she said she would rather stay home.  We felt sorry that she was missing a movie.  As kids, we didn’t realize that this was her only time all week she could spend without children and she was enjoying every minute of her afternoon alone!
If I could go back in time to relive just one of these summer Sundays, I would savor every second.  But since that isn’t possible, I’ll have to be content with these unforgettable memories!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

My daughter-in-law gave me this recipe which she copied from the internet.  I don’t know what site it was published on.  I tried it and enjoyed it very much.  The salad is light and refreshing; the perfect side dish for summer meals.  I think it might be the lemon juice that gives it such a fresh taste.  This recipe makes a large salad but it keeps well in the fridge.

Summer Orzo Salad

Dressing:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Salad:

1 cup uncooked orzo

2 cups chopped tomato

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels

1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion

Combine dressing ingredients and put in empty jar; cover and shake.  Cook and drain orzo according to package directions.  Pour 1/2 of the dressing onto warm orzo.  Let cool; then add remaining dressing and tomato, basil, corn and red onion.  Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

I can still remember the long lazy days of summer as a kid.  June, July, August – three whole months of no school seemed like an eternity to me.  It meant freedom from homework and studying for tests, sleeping late and endless mornings and afternoons of nothing but fun and play.  As a kid, I foolishly thought those summer days would last forever!

Here are a few special memories I’d like to share with you.

On Barret Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky next to the Altenheim (that’s German for home for the aged) was a large open field called O’Leary’s Field.  It was probably named after the owner.  Every summer the area overflowed with blooming violets.  My Mom allowed me to accompany the neighborhood kids to pick violets.  We arrived early in the morning while the field was still partially shaded from the hot summer sun.  I picked as many violets as each hand could hold and walked a block and a half home to present them to my Mom.  She welcomed the fruits of my labor with open arms and searched for drinking glasses to hold the blooms.  I was so proud of those small bouquets.  Violet-picking was a pleasant summer ritual; that is until the year the open field disappeared beneath a paved parking lot for a nearby church.  O’Leary’s Field was gone but not the memories of picking summer violets.

One of the best treats of summer was shedding my shoes to go barefoot.  The feeling of the grass tickling my toes was heavenly.  The grass was cool and refreshing; much different than running across the hot concrete sidewalk.  The grass in our backyard was studded with clover.  And with the clover came lots of small honeybees feasting on the nectar.  Sure enough at least once each summer I stepped on a bee and suffered a bee sting.  I would holler and cry and then run into the house to find Mom.  She tried to extract the stinger but it was usually too late.  My foot would turn red and begin to swell.  A paste of baking soda and water was applied to the area to draw out the stinger.  Then a bandage was applied.  A few hours later the horrible itching would start.  There was no Benadryl in our medicine cabinet.  I had to tough it out for a few days until the swelling and itching subsided.  Despite the inconvenience of a bee sting, I couldn’t wait to run barefoot again in the back yard.

My final summer memory is catching fireflies on a warm summer evening.  As soon as the sun went down and the fireflies appeared, my sister and I hurried to get our jars with holes poked in the lids.  They were the perfect place for the captured fireflies.  We usually only caught one or two of these insects and then decided to let them go.  It just didn’t seem right to imprison them.  They were so beautiful and so much a part of summer.  I haven’t seen a firefly in years.  I wonder if they are still around.  They were a very special part of my summers in the 50′s.

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Church picnics in the 50′s in Louisville, Kentucky were the main fund-raising event for many Catholic congregations.  And St. Therese was no exception.  Actually they were more like festivals than picnics, which suggest people eating a meal together outdoors.

Every June St. Therese held their “picnic” and I attended every one while growing up.  But the picnic of June, 1959 was special.  This picnic was an extravaganza for the entire neighborhood.  Part of Schiller Avenue was closed to traffic for the event which started around 3 P.M. and lasted until well after midnight.  Pony rides were given in the alley behind the school and along the side of Beargrass Creek, with a large merry-go-round in the middle of Schiller Avenue.  A “tilt-a-whirl” was assembled in the yard next to the priest house and a giant ferris-wheel was erected next to the side of the church.

In addition to amusement rides, there were games of chance called “wheels”.  A wheel with numbers printed around the edge was spun.  Picnic-goers laid a nickel on a board on a particular number.  If the wheel stopped on that number, you were a winner.

Each wheel had different prizes such as fruit-baskets wrapped in colored cellophane, pound boxes of Muth’s chocolates, hand embroidered pillowcases, dolls, stuffed toys, hams, baskets of groceries, homemade cakes and cartons of beer.

The ladies of the parish donated the pillowcases with beautifully stitched flowers or birds in pastel colors.  The border of the pillowcases was crocheted with matching color threads.  The cakes were “out of this world”!  The ladies baked their best recipes for the picnic.  The tiered shelves behind the wheel were laden with chocolate iced layer cakes, pineapple up-side-down cakes, creamy frosted coconut cakes and rich, dense pound cakes.  The cake wheel only had 60 numbers on it.  So if you really wanted one, you could cover every number with a nickel and you were guaranteed to win a scrumptious homemade cake for only three dollars!

A fried chicken dinner with all the fixings was served in the basement of the school.  Many people ate their supper there and then spent the evening trying to win a prize on the picnic grounds outside.  Bratwurst sandwiches and cold beer could be purchased on the grounds as well.

Here’s a true family story concerning the 1959 picnic.  My parents were scheduled to work at the picnic while my younger sister and I wanted to try all the amusement rides.  My older sister who was 21 at the time, thought the idea of going to a church picnic on Saturday night was dull and uninteresting.  I can still remember my Dad saying “You never know, you might meet your future husband at St. Therese’s summer picnic”.  My sister laughed heartily but she and her girlfriend decided to stop by the picnic later in the evening.  Sure enough she ran into some guys that she attended grade school with and struck up a conversation with them.  One of those guys who had just returned from active Army duty in Germany asked her out.  They continued dating for the rest of the year.  Kenny proposed to her on Christmas Eve, 1959 and on September 3, 1960 they were married at St. Therese Church.

Our family often wondered what would have happened if Martha hadn’t heeded Dad’s wise advice.  I guess some things are just meant to be!  I also wonder if any other romances started at St. Therese’s Summer Picnic?

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Forty-two years ago today my husband and I were united in matrimony.  It was a cool, beautiful blue-sky morning in Louisville, Ky.   And St. Therese Church at Schiller Avenue and Kentucky Street was the site of the ceremony.

Every June 20th I love to examine our wedding album and relive all the moments of that day.  I never fail to notice that both of us looked so incredibly young!  My older sister, Martha, was the matron of honor and younger sister, Nancy, was a bridesmaid along with two other girlfriends.  They were dressed in long gowns of pale pink and carried bouquets of pink carnations and white daisies.  My husband’s best friend, Jake, was the best man and there were three other groomsmen.  My wedding dress was an empire waist off-white gown adorned with a lace top and long sleeves.  Stephanotis and white carnations filled the cascading bridal bouquet.

A limousine rented from the neighborhood funeral home was my mode of transportation to the church.  I was extremely nervous as I entered the car and sat next to my Dad.  My father wisely advised me in these words:  “Mary, this is your big day.  Don’t let nerves ruin it.  Just sit back and enjoy every minute of this day that only comes once in a lifetime.”  These words really calmed me and I realized he was right.  This day was so special.  As Dad escorted me down the aisle, my eyes saw only my future husband standing there waiting for me.  I thought my heart would burst with love!

Mike was very anxious during the ceremony and developed a nervous laugh.  I reminded him a couple of times to relax.  It seemed strange for me to be the one who was calm after worrying about every detail of the wedding for six months.  He pulled himself together and did a fine job repeating our wedding vows in front of the entire congregation.

Father Jerry Eifler married us and remarked during the homily that the love we felt for each other that day was minuscule compared to the love that would develop between us during the coming years.  I didn’t understand that statement in 1970 but I do now.  It took a lot of shared ups and downs along with joys and sorrows to perfect our love.  After 42 years together, our love just grows stronger, sweeter and more tender.  Father Eifler was absolutely correct – I love and appreciate my husband more today than I did on June 20, 1970!  Happy Anniversary, Mike!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Yes, cottage cheese, a bland white dairy product can be exciting but it needs a little help.  Ketchup was a favorite ingredient that my Dad added to it.  I went for a little more zip and flavored my c.c. with seafood cocktail sauce.  This was the beginning of my experimentation with this dairy product.  After all it is a dieter’s friend because a half-cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains only 90 calories and one gram of fat.  Add some of the combos listed below and you have a very tasty luncheon entree.

1.  Chopped carrots, celery and lemon-pepper seasoning

2.  Cocktail sauce with sunflower seeds and freshly ground black pepper

3.  Black beans, chopped tomato, shredded cheddar cheese and a sprinkle of chili powder

4.  Chopped carrots, corn, green pepper and 1 tablespoon Trader Joe’s reduced-fat cilantro salad dressing

5.  Sliced radishes, chopped broccoli and black pepper

6.  Chopped dill pickle or pickle relish with a little Dijon mustard and black pepper

7.  Thawed frozen peas, shredded cheddar cheese, sunflower seeds and 1 tablespoon low-fat Italian salad dressing

8.  Blueberries, strawberries or raspberries with a sprinkle of cinnamon

9.  Chunks of pineapple, shredded cheddar cheese and 1 teaspoon of low-fat mayo

10.  Fresh sliced peaches or nectarines with a cinnamon sprinkle

So the next time you eat cottage cheese, don’t settle for a plain ole boring taste.  Excite your taste buds with Mimi’s cottage cheese combos!  And remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

I’m proud to say I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and even prouder of this fact during Derby Week.  For it is during this time that the city of Louisville really shines.  There’s a spectacular fireworks display, the staging of “Thunder Over Louisville”, a lively parade full of marching bands, clowns and artfully decorated floats along with more parties than “you can shake a stick at”!

There’s one Kentucky Derby that I will always remember vividly; well, maybe it was really the morning after.  Let me tell you about it.

Many Sundays during the spring racing season, my Uncle Leonard and my Dad (both avid horse lovers) would drive to Churchill Downs at sunrise to go to the “backside” to observe the horses out on the track for their morning exercise.  Occasionally my younger sister and I would join them even though it involved attending Sunday mass at 5 AM.  But the sacrifice was well worth it; for when we arrived, the sun was just rising in the sky, the air was fresh and chilly and a low fog lay over the track area.  It was magical to see these graceful animals begin with a slow trot and gradually progress to a full gallop.  Their hooves smacking the dirt track made a melodious clip-clop, clip-clop sound.  Before we left, we would stroll by the stables to survey the horses in their stalls eating oats and munching on carrots.

On the Sunday after the running of the 1956 Kentucky Derby, we embarked on a sunrise trip to Churchill Downs.  But this day was special; yes, very special.  As we wandered through the stable area, we spied a gorgeous blanket of red roses draped over a stable door.  Then we saw a handsome and proud horse standing nearby.  We moved closer for a better look and sure enough it was Needles, the 1956 Kentucky Derby winner.  A gentleman near the horse proudly told us so and he allowed my sister and I to pet Needles.  He asked if we would like a couple of roses from the blanket.  Sure, we exclaimed; so he pinched off two rosebuds for both of us.  What a treasure for a 10 year old girl!  We couldn’t wait to show them to our Mom, when we returned home.

Somehow during the years those dried Derby rosebuds were misplaced and lost.  But I will never forget our encounter with Needles, the winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

It’s that time of year when summer thunderstorms occur and many times the electricity goes out.  The first thing I think of is what will happen to all the food in the fridge and freezer.  Here’s an interesting article that answers this question.  The article is entitled “Keep your cool when the power goes out” and was written by Kathleen Purvis of the Charlotte Observer.  I am going to quote the article verbatim.

“Q:  Late-summer storms have knocked out my power several times lately.  Every time, I’m nervous about the food in the refrigerator and freezer.  I used to check the cubes in the ice bin.  If they had started to melt, I would toss everything.  Is there a better rule of thumb for when items are no longer safe?

A:  As long as you keep the refrigerator and freezer closed, they are insulated enough to keep food cold for a while.

A full chest freezer, kept closed, will stay cold for three to four days, an upright deep freezer for two to three days, and a refrigerator’s freezer for one to two days.  A closed refrigerator should keep food cold for four to six hours.  You can stretch that by placing block ice or bags of ice in the refrigerator on a pan to collect the water as it melts.

As soon as the power comes back on, check the frozen food:  If there are visible ice crystals and the food feels cold, it can be refrozen.

For the refrigerator, keep a thermometer inside and check it as soon as the power comes back to make sure it’s still below 40 degrees.  Fresh meat, poultry, lunch meat, hot dogs, eggs, milk, soft cheese and prepared or cooked food should be discarded if they were above 40 degrees for more than two hours.  Fruit, juices and vegetables are OK if they smell OK and don’t show any signs of spoiling.”

Hope you find this info helpful and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

A friend gave me this simple recipe about 30 years ago and it is one of my favorite appetizers.  I’d like to share it with you.

Shrimp Cocktail Dip

8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, softened

4 ounce can shrimp

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon chopped onion

Mix ingredients together and form into a ball.  Refrigerate overnight.  Frost cheese ball with cocktail sauce and serve with fancy crackers.

How easy can it get?  Enjoy and remember to

Keep smilin’!

 

Dear Readers,

While on a recent shopping trip to Costco, I discovered and purchased a 5.5 pound container of “Gourmet Bean Blend” distributed by Epicurean Specialty, which is “a colorful variety of beans, peans and lentils”.  There’s a recipe for a Vegetarian Gourmet Bean Blend Chili printed on the package, but I was in the mood for bean soup and here is what I concocted.

Mimi’s Costco Bean Soup

3 cups Epicurean Specialty Gourmet Bean Blend

2 – 32 oz. containers Kirkland Signature chicken stock

2 or 3 cups cubed ham

1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste

1 cup chopped celery

Soak 3 cups of beans overnight in cold water as directed on the package.  Next day, drain and rinse beans and put in a large soup pot.  Add remaining ingredients along with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring mixture to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  Cover soup pot and continued to cook for two hours or until beans are tender.

This soup just begs to be served with warm, buttered cornbread.  Any mix will do but Trader Joe’s has a really good cornbread mix that easy to prepare.

My husband loved the soup and so did I.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

For the past three weeks I have been very sick.  What started out as a common cold escalated into acute bronchitis and then a sinus infection and fluid in my left ear.  I am starting my third round of a different antibiotic and prednisone pills to help drain my ear.  Hopefully after this series of pills, I will feel like myself again.

Needless to say I have learned quite a few life lessons from this illness.  Permit me to share them with you.

1.  It’s okay if a kitchen counter resembles a mini-pharmacy with antibiotic pills, cough medicine, decongesant, and cough drops lined up in a row.

2.  A house can stay uncleaned for one month and not look that bad.

3.  Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup taste like gourmet food when you’re under the weather.

4.  Bronchitis is not the best way to lose four pounds in 10 days.

5.  Mind over matter does not work when you are very sick.  If the body says no, it means no.

6.  Taking a shower and washing your hair consumes a lot of energy when you are weak.

7.  Friends are like angels when they shop for groceries and deliver them to your door with a heart-warming smile.

8.  I will definitely have more empathy and understanding for people who are sick.

9.  I hope I never take my good health for granted again.  It’s a gift from God that no amount of money can purchase!

Stay healthy and

Keep smilin’!

A Lenten Main Dish

Dear Readers,

The season of Lent begins today, which is Ash Wednesday, and for Catholics that means meatless meals today and for the next six Fridays.  It really isn’t much of a sacrifice because there are so many delicious meatless dishes.  Here’s one I copied from a carton of Kraft’s cottage cheese.  My husband and I really enjoyed it.

Italian Spinach Pie

2 cups cottage cheese

1 – 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well drained

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 – 7 oz. jar roasted red peppers, well drained, chopped

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients until well blended.  Pour into greased 9-inch pie plate.  Bake 40 minutes or until center is set.

Enjoy and don’t forget to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

The idea for this trip started as an off-hand remark from my daughter-in-law about six months ago.  She commented that she missed coming to California and that Maggie would be almost two years old, old enough to endure a long cross-country plane ride.  Maybe, just maybe, they could journey to Palm Springs in late January or early February.

That’s all it took for me to start promoting this excursion.  Ideas were spinning right and left in my head.  Our large master bedroom with adjoining bathroom was an excellent spot for the whole family to camp out.  A corner of the room would house the twin aero-bed for Emily and there was ample space for Maggie’s pack-n-play near the bed.  My husband and I could sleep in the guest bedroom and use the guest bath.  We would make closet space and drawers available so that they wouldn’t have to live out of suitcases.  My son determined a convenient time for his vacation and plane reservations were secured.

About a month before the visit, my daughter-in-law and I e-mailed quite a lot.  A list of food for the girls was formulated, discussions of the weather and appropriate clothing was reviewed and even what books could be checked out of the library were decided.

Suddenly I was shopping for pink and rose towels for the girls, sheets for the new aero-bed and groceries such as graham crackers, whole wheat Eggo waffles, fresh blueberries, lots of bananas and even YoBaby peach yogurt.  (Not easy to find!)

The girls arrived late on a Saturday evening with both of them calling for Mimi, when I greeted them at the garage door.  It felt so good knowing we would have them here for a full ten days!  The first three nights were rough because Maggie was on east coast time and thought everyone should be awake at 3 AM!  Eventually we settled in a routine of unhurried family breakfasts, trips to a nearby glayground and daily swims in the condo pool after Maggie’s nap.

Our condo bustled with non-stop activity.  Maggie loved to open and shut doors and explored for pots and pans in the kitchen cabinets.  Emily was content to color and draw pictures on a small table and chairs.  She enjoyed hiking with her parents and walked almost three miles on a local trail.  The days passed quickly and all too soon it was time for everyone to depart.  The extra equipment and suitcases were packed up for the plane ride back to Raleigh.  We kissed and hugged goodbye before the departure for the airport.  Then the clean up began; sheets and towels were laundered and floors were swept and washed.

I thought to myself:  I’m doing okay with missing those two little sweethearts; that is until I opened the fridge and the sight of three little cartons of YoBaby yogurt immediately caught my eye.  Then the tears started to flow!

Keep smilin’!

 

Dear Readers,

Here’s a continuation of the list of “Super Snacks” suggested by Dr. Bill Sears.

A handful of raw nuts or trail mix

Pita bread spread with hummus

Rice cake with peanut butter and banana

Parmesan cheese melted on a slice of whole-grain bread

Blueberries in yogurt

Popcorn (homemade air-popped)

Celery sticks with peanut butter

Cherry tomatoes with cheese cubes

Fruit-and-yogurt smoothie

Hard-boiled egg

Bean dip and veggie sticks

Any fruit

Whole-grain muffins, preferably homemade

Homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies

Cut-up vegetables with salsa and corn chips

Here’s a list of “Grow Foods” which are nutrient-dense and they “offer more bang for your nutritional buck”.

Vegetables, steamed or raw

Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)

Fruits

Whole grains

Nuts and nut butters

Seafood, especially Alaskan salmon

Lean meats and poultry

Greek-style yogurt

Eggs

Hummus.

Hope you find this info helpful and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Dr. Bill Sears, an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine and co-author of The Baby Book, wrote a very informative article entitled “Graze Anatomy”, in which he fully explains the benefits of grazing for toddlers.  It appeared in the June, 2011 edition of the “Costco Connection”.  Let me quote directly from the article.

“Children are born grazers.  One of the eating tips I give my patients of all ages is what I call Dr. Bill’s Rule of Two’s:  Eat twice as often – Eat half as much – Chew twice as long.

Grazing benefits the brain.  The buzzwords for feeding the brain are slow and steady.  Grazers have steadier blood sugar and therefore a steadier supply of brain fuel.  Parents often tell me that once they start encouraging their children to graze throughout the day, their children have fewer behavior and learning problems at school.

Grazing is good for staying lean.  When you graze on frequent mini meals throughout the day, your body enjoys stable insulin levels.  Insulin is a fat-storage hormone.  When it spikes high throughout the day, such as when you gorge, you store that extra food as extra fat.  When you graze, insulin is not so high, which helps keep you lean.  Remember, lean does not mean being skinny, but rather having the right body weight for your body type.”

Dr. Sears goes on to describe what is a healthy snack for toddlers and children.  They should contain at least 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber; contain 100 to 200 calories and be crunchy so that a lot of chewing is required to digest them.  He gave a list of “Super Snacks” that are good for grazing.  Here are some of the snacks listed:

Baby carrots dipped in hummus

Apple slices dipped in peanut butter

Whole-grain cereal with yogurt

Edamame (fresh, cooked soybeans)

String cheese and a piece of fruit

Cottage cheese and fruit

To Be Continued.

Keep smilin’!

 

Dear Readers,

I know this is a wild name for macaroni and cheese but throw caution to the wind and give this dish a try!  The recipe for “Cheese Thing” originated with Wendy A. Parker and was published in Sue Rappaport’s column in the Desert Sun newspaper.  Prepared this casserole for both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and everyone loved it.

Cheese Thing

1 pound penne rigate or similar tubular pasta

1/2 pound EACH:  sharp cheddar cheese, mild cheddar cheese

1 can (28 ounces) whole, peeled tomatoes with juice

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:  Heat a large pot of salted water (at least 5 quarts) to boil.  Add penne and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Don’t worry if the pasta is a little undercooked, it will be finished in the oven.  Meanwhile cut the cheeses into 1/2 inch cubes.  Leave tomatoes in their juice and cut them into bite size pieces with with a knife or for fun, squeeze them with your hands.

When the pasta is done, drain and return to pot.  Add butter and stir until almost melted.  Add cheese, tomatoes, sugar and salt; stir well.  Pour mixture into 2 quart or 9 x 13-inch baking dish – glass or ceramic is best.  For optimal results, the Cheese Thing should sit for 12 to 24 hours, covered and refrigerated before baking, although it can be baked right away.  It can be frozen at this point for up to a month.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Set the Cheese Thing on a rack in the middle of oven; bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until bubbly and noodles poking out of the top have browned considerably.  Serve hot as an entree with a salad or as a side dish for meat or serve cold for breakfast the next morning.

Enjoy and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

We had a grand time visiting with family in Raleigh at Christmas.  Since the granddaughters have arrived, we are creating some Christmas traditions most of which center around food and familly meals.

This is the third Christmas that Seth, our son-in-law, prepared posole and tamales.  The entire clan helped to fill and wrap the tamales under the watchful eyes of Seth.  Our granddaughter enjoyed the traditional reading of her favorite book, entited “Too Many Tamales”.  She helped Uncle Seth mix the masa for the outside of the tamales, delighted that sticky fingers in the dough was part of the process.  Seth spent hours cooking chicken, pork and even pig’s feet for the dinner.  Different mole sauces were concocted, cilantro and radishes were chopped and pumpkin seeds were toasted and ground.  Needless to say, quite a few dishes and utensils needed to be washed and dried during the cooking marathon.

Mimi hosted the Christmas Eve dinner which consisted of brown sugar ham, mac and cheese, green beans and homemade applesauce.  Finally on Christmas Day our son, Andrew, baked the holiday turkey along with PopPop Gibson’s stuffing and broccoli casserole.  The kitchen was a beehive of activity all day.

Quite a bit of energy was exerted for all three of these meals.  But I witnessed something very heartwarming during the holidays.  Anytime the cook needed a break, some member of the family came into the kitchen and lent a hand.  There were always a couple of people washing and drying dishes before the meal, while someone else set the table.  We took turns watching the little ones while the final touches were made to the food.  The scraping of dishes and the loading of the dishwasher were performed by someone who wasn’t in the kitchen earlier.

In other words, we worked in teams helping each other out when fatigue set in.  Then I realized that is just what families do.  They lift each other up and take up the slack when a member is tired.  This help is extended not only during the holidays but throughout life.  It is a comforting feeling to be a member of a family and know that the love, support and encouragment of the members is truly a blessing from God!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

There was one Christmas we were not certain there would be enough money to buy any presents.

My Dad worked at American Standard Plumbing Co. as a brass assembler and he was a member of the union called the American Association of Machinists.  During the summer the union contract expired and negotiations fell apart over an increase of wages.  Neither union nor management would compromise, so a strike was declared.

Dad had been through previous strikes and they usually ended in four to six weeks.  But this time it was different.  Both sides were dug in and no compromise was in sight.  The work stoppage continued from August through Thanksgiving with no hope of returning to work.  Dad received strike benefits of about $30 a week but that was not near enough to cover all our expenses.  Dad found some work painting houses but he was eager to go back to his factory job.  Luckily, Mom had a “rainy day” fund but even that was steadily dwindling as Christmas approached.  Money was so tight that Mom was seriously considering brushing up on her typing skills and applying for a job at the hospital where my older sister worked.

Thankfully around the first of December the strike ended.  But there wasn’t much money left for lots of Christmas presents.  Christmas was a little leaner than other years.  But we had each other and we realized Christmas wasn’t about receiving things but being around the people you loved.  Our family thanked God at Christmas Mass that Dad had returned to work and that we had each other!

Have a very Merry Christmas and remember to

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

I was probably 12 years old and all I wanted for Christmas that year was Nancy Drew mystery books.  Nancy Drew was my hero!  She was 18 years old, beautiful, and a fearless amateur detective who drove a convertible sports car.  She embodied everything I wanted to be and do.

My sister and I received about four books for Christmas, including “The Scarlet Slipper Mystery” and “The Secret of the Old Clock”.  Our best friend, Darlene, also received a couple of Nancy Drew books.  The three of us spent the entire holiday week reading about our hero.  As soon as we finished one book, we would trade around and read another one.

Our reading area was our “front room” where the Christmas tree was displayed.  The “front room” was the room facing the street and it was a special room that was only used for celebrating Christmas.  It contained all the fancy furniture my Mom inherited from her parents.  There was a lovely velvet black with maroon trim Victorian sofa with two matching chairs, one of which was a wingback chair.  A stately china cabinet filled with dolls on display anchored one corner of the room.  There was an oil painting of two ladies in long dresses and matching bonnets enjoying a cup of tea, centered above the mantel.  Dad had a clock encased in a glass dome resting on the mantel above the fireplace.  Three gold balls rotated round and round at the base of the clock to show the passing seconds.  The clock was so delicate and graceful.  No wonder this room was off-limits most of the year.  Mom wanted to keep the area as a showplace.

So you can imagine how thrilling it was to read about Nancy Drew, lounging on the special sofa in the glow of the Christmas tree.  Mom determined that we were old enough to be allowed to drink ginger-ale garnished with a red maraschino cherry from an elegant glass.  We pretended this drink was a real cocktail.  We wanted to be as sophisticated as Nancy Drew.  True, we had no exciting mysteries to solve nor a convertible to drive, but it was still a Christmas worth remembering, even after all these years.

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

After experiencing 65 Christmases, quite a few pleasing memories linger in the back of my mind.  Permit me to dust off a few of these recollections and share them with you.

“Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” is a church hymn sung during Advent (four weeks of preparation before Christmas).  Singing this song reminds me of a holiday cantata I sang in as a freshman at Ursuline Academy in Louisville, Ky.  Every Christmas this pageant featuring the entire student body was produced and presented as a fund raiser for the school.

The first song of the show in 1959 was “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”.  The entire freshman class was chosen to sing all six verses of this hymn by heart.  We practiced daily for weeks but somehow none of us put much effort into memorizing all the words.  We stumbled and mumbled quite a bit after the first verse.

About a week before the performance, we were still not sure of the words.  Sister Vincentia, the cantata director, was so exasperated by our lack of interest that during this song, she suddenly banged on the piano and shouted “dammit”!  You could hear a pin drop on the stage.  That comment sure caught our attention.  Did Sister really utter “dammit”?  She was so irritated with us that she demanded we memorize all six verses that night for homework.  You better believe that at rehearsal the following day, the hymn was sung perfectly.  Sister Vincentia never had to raise her voice again and I realized for the first time, that nuns were human too!

Another Christmas memory involves ice skates and a big surprise.  On one particular Christmas my sister and I no longer believed in Santa but Dad wanted to surprise us with a special Christmas present.  He chose our gift from Speier’ Hardware on Barret Avenue, where every December a large area of the store was dedicated to a Christmas toy display.  Shelves were overflowing with all types of dolls, trucks and games.  Shiny new bikes were lined up in a long row.   There was even pairs of ice skates on display.   All the neighborhood kids loved to wander up and down the aisles and dream of what toy they would be receiving for Christmas.

A few days before Christmas, Dad came home from Speier’s carrying a big box under his arm.  It was gift-wrapped and the tag had both our names written on it.  He carefully placed it underneath the decorated Christmas tree.  We were intrigued.  We would pick it up, shake it and speculate on the contents.  After much jiggling and shaking, we decided that the box contained a pair of ice skates.  We pictured ourselves skating on ice in beautiful costumes just like the girls in the Ice Capades.  Can you imagine the dismay in our eyes, when we opened the box and pulled out a regulation-size basketball?  I’m sure my Dad thought it was the perfect present for two young girls.  We tried to hide our disappointment because we didn’t want to hurt Dad’s feelings.  Bouncing a basketball was enjoyable but it would never match the thrill of skating across the ice!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Okay, maybe I’m going too far putting the words “Christmas” and “hate” in the same title.  Instead of “hate”, how about “dislike intensely”?  Wouldn’t want you to think that Mimi is a total scrooge!

Perhaps I’ll start with the negative aspects of Christmas cards.  First, there’s the shopping for and selection of the cards.  It has to be sweet and cute but still convey a worthwhile holiday message.  It has to look like it cost at least $3 a card but actually be purchased at an inexpensive price.  (Notice I wrote “inexpensive” instead of that other word, lest you think Mimi is a cheapskate!)  The price requirement is a tall order and some years the cards are impressive and other years, not as much.

Once the cards are chosen, there’s the chore of addressing each one.  My fingers get tired and occasionally my penmanship shows it.  At least the stamps do not have to be licked anymore!

Here’s what I love about Christmas cards.  Every December I get the opportunity to think about every person on the list as I address their card.  Good memories are attached to each of these names.  Childhood friends, aunts and uncles who are now in their 80′s, my godmother, and neighbors I lived next to for more than 20 years are part of this list.  My husband has childhood friends, tennis buddies and former employees of his on the index of names.   For years we mailed a card to his former boss at a furniture store where he was briefly employed as a young man.  Then one Christmas we received a note from her daughter saying she had died during the year.  A  Christmas card was our only connection to this lovely woman.

I  love opening the mailbox, searching inside and collecting the cards.  On many of them I can identify the sender by their handwriting.  I rush into the house to sit down, unseal them and savor the news that is contained in each of them.  It feels good to be in touch with people from the past, even if it is only for a few minutes.  This brief connection is a big part of the overall joy of the Christmas celebration.

I’ve just finished writing Christmas cards for 2011.  Although there are parts of the process I “intensely dislike”, I will continue the card writing ritual as long as I am able to because it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

In the 1940′s and 50′s coal was delivered directly to our house.  It was burned in the stove to provide heat during the winter.  Each fall Dad would order at least a ton of coal and the truck would dump it onto the street near the curb.  Dad then had to fill a wheel barrel with the coal and empty it into the coal bin in the basement through a small window.  This whole procedure created lots of black coal dust.  My older sister loved to help Dad by picking up small pieces of coal laying in the street.  By the end of the day, she was covered with coal dust and had to spend a long time in the bathtub while Mom scrubbed the coal dust from her scalp.

The loud noise from the dumping of coal scared me to death.  Mom said I cried and cried.  I was so frightened as a toddler that for about three or four years, I spent the day at my grandmother’s house whenever coal was scheduled for delivery.

During the 50′s two different newspapers were delivered to our home daily.  In the morning we received the Courier-Journal and at 4 PM, the Louisville Times.  Every Friday night around 7 PM the paperboy came to collect money for the paper.  We had a payment card and as each week was paid for, he punched a hole in the card by the appropriate week.

Every other week Mr. Lawson, our insurance man, would visit our home and collect 25 cents for the life insurance policy my parents had purchased.  He would pencil in “paid” and the date in the line next to our name in a large, thick payment book that he carried with him.  Mr. Lawson told Mom that if she had a two dollar bill, she would never be broke.  I guess the reasoning behind that remark was that two dollar bills were pretty rare even then and that if you had one, you would never spend it.  When I recently asked my sister about Mr. Lawson, she informed me that she always carries a two dollar bill in her wallet.  Both her son and daughter do the same!

At the time, I guess we thought those home deliveries would continue forever.  Sadly they didn’t.  By the early 60′s, coal was no longer used for home heating, insurance bills were mailed out and the home delivery of bread and milk was no longer profitable.  But it’s awfully nice to remember those delivery people and what a big part they played in my childhood memories.

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

Today if we need milk or bread, we just hop into our car and drive to the nearest grocery or convenience store.  This wasn’t the case in the 1950′s.  These food items were delivered directly to your doorstep at least once or sometimes twice a week.  Let me tell you more about this great service.

Donaldson’s Bakery in Louisville, Ky. carried “Peter Wheat” bread and delivered it by truck door-to-door.  (My older sister remembers when their delivery truck was horse-drawn in the 1940′s.)  I can recall the Donaldson delivery man knocking on our door early Saturday morning with a large metal delivery tray of assorted bread and baked goods.  Mom always purchased a loaf of bread for making school lunch sandwiches.  In addition to that, we were allowed to choose something for Saturday morning breakfast.  There were sweet iced cinnamon rolls, streusel-topped coffee cakes and even tender doughnuts.  It was difficult to decide which baked goodie to buy.  Some Saturdays, Mom went out to the delivery truck to procure an iced layer cake or fruit pie for a special occasion.  My favorite was a yellow cake covered with creamy caramel icing.

Twice a week milk was delivered to our door in quart-size glass bottles.  There was a metal box on our side porch where the bottles were deposited.  It kept the milk cold until Mom could move the bottles into the refrigerator. The top two inches of the bottle contained heavy cream.  Mom would skim it off the top and beat it to produce real whipped cream for special desserts.  Empty milk bottles were also stored in the metal box for pickup by the driver.

Our milkman dressed in a uniform of white shirt, white pants and a white hat and was named “Duffy”.  I suppose that was his last name.  My younger sister and I would call him “Ducky”.  He always laughed at that and when Mom paid the weekly bill, he would give us old order pads to play with.  We used them for writing food orders whenever we played “grocery store”.  Each order sheet consisted of two different pieces of paper.  The top sheet was white with carbon paper on the back and the “customer copy” sheet was yellow.

We had the same mail delivery man for at least 15 years.  He was so kind and always waved “hello” to us.  Mail was delivered twice a day in the weeks preceding Christmas.  As soon as we heard the clank of the mailbox being closed, we rushed out to collect the Christmas cards.  By the way, stamps were three cents!

To Be Continued.

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

I clipped this recipe from the News and Observer newspaper in Raleigh, NC.  It is low in fat and calories and the ginger adds a little zing to the typical chicken and rice soup.

Gingered Chicken and Rice Soup

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 8 ozs.

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped onions

6 cups water

1/2 cup long-grain rice

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 egg

2 tablespoons 1% milk

Place the chicken breast, carrots, onions and water in a 4-1/2 quart or larger soup pot.  Cover and heat to a boil over high heat, and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is almost cooked through.

Reduce heat to medium, remove the chicken breast to a plate, and then add the rice, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper.  Dice the chicken and return to the pot.  Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and cook for 15 more minutes or until the rice is tender.

Stir together the egg and milk until well blended.  Uncover the soup and drizzle the egg mixture evenly over soup.  Stir well to blend and thicken soup, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.  Each serving contains 190 calories and 3 grams of fat.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

 

Dear Readers,

Recently during a rain shower, the sun appeared from behind the dark clouds.  Oh no! I thought.  The devil is beating his wife!  At least, that’s what my Mom used to tell us whenever it was raining and the sun was still shining.  It was one of her folk sayings handed down through previous generations.

Here are a few other sayings:  It’s bad luck to rock an empty rocker.  If you drop a spoon, a fool is coming to visit.  If you knock over the salt shaker, there will be an argument at the table.  If the palm of your hand itches, you’ll soon be receiving money.  Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.  If the hem of your dress is turned up, spit on it and you will receive a new dress.  It’s bad luck to rock an empty cradle.

I find myself uttering these same sayings to my family.  I’m not sure where or how they originated but they sure do make life interesting.

My other random thought concerns the value of a smile.  I walk almost every day and one of the best parts of taking this daily stroll is being greeted by a smile from a stranger.  It feels so good to connect with another human being in this manner.  It lifts my spirits and brings an extra spring into my footsteps.  Just think, smiling doesn’t cost a dime but the benefit it bestows is priceless.  So the next time you spot an ole lady wearing silver sneakers striding down your street, give her a big smile.  You might just be smiling at Mimi!

Keep smilin’!

Dear Readers,

November is chili time and this recipe includes apples as part of the ingredients.  The recipe is by J. M. Hirsch and came from the Associated Press.  The recipe sounded intriguing so I tried it this week.  It is very tasty and low in fat since I chose to prepare it with ground turkey instead of ground beef.  Mr. Hirsch advises “to briefly heat the spices in oil.  This helps bring out their most intense flavors, mimicking the depth of flavor you’s expect from a more slowly cooked dish.”  My husband also advises to enjoy this chili with a cold bottle of beer!

Spicy Beef Chili With Apples

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 pounds ground beef

2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 large yellow onion, diced

6-ounce can tomato paste

3 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the paprika, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder and cinnamon.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.  Add the beef and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.

Add the apples and onion, then saute for 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste, broth and vinegar; then bring to a simmer.  Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.  As usual, this chili tastes much better the second day.

Enjoy and

Keep smilin’!

Dear Nancy,

Happy Birthday!  It’s pretty special to celebrate a birthday on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 2011.  It’s also special that you were born in the llth hour and weighted 9 lbs,-2 ozs. which adds up to 11.  I guess 11 really is your lucky number.  Celebrate!

Love from you big sister!

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