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The Best, Easiest, No-Peel, No Fail, Applesauce

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Here it is, mid-October, and you have that big 1/2 bushel bag of apples you purchased at the farm stand, farmer’s market or even picked yourself from one of those places upstate that you bring the whole family to and ride the hay wagon out to the orchard, while swatting at the yellow-jackets and hoping that the port-a-johns are clean.  I’ve made the annual trek many times as a mother of three.  By now you’ve made the apple pies, muffins and even cake and that bowl of macintosh seems to stay full.  Sometimes, as is often the way with life, the simple things are the best.  This is a recipe for apple sauce with three ingredients, apples, water and cinnamon.  No sugar is necessary unless your apples are extremely tart.The only equipment you will need is a heavy saucepan and a food mill, yes a food mill, like the ones your Grandmother had in her kitchen.  As you can see, I have several, and have found them used at yard sales, inherited one, and even bought one at an expensive Bed, Bath and Way Beyond store.  I recommend you get one if you don’t already have one, if only for this recipe, because it is that good.  The food mill also works great for making fresh tomato sauce and homemade baby food.  The blade separates out the peels from the fruit.Here is the recipe for apple sauce, it is much tastier than any store-bought brand I have tried. You will need at least 2 1/2 pounds of your favorite cooking apples and 1/2 cup water to cook them in. First wash and scrub your apples.Then cut up into sections and remove the seeds as they are bitter, leave on the peels.  If you use red apples, your applesauce will take on the most beautiful PINK tint and people will be impressed with you!  I have used a mix of Paula Reds and Jonagolds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next cook your apples with the 1/2 cup of water in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, covered, stirring often, as you don’t want burning, a medium heat is good for this.  It will take about 30 minutes for this process and the apples will get very soft, think the consistency of mashed potatoes.When cooked down, transfer to  your food mill which is placed over a round bowl or another pot. Start cranking the handle until the contents are passed through mill and all that remains are the peels.  This will only take a few minutes to process.By now the aroma of cooked apples will be permeating the house and everyone will be asking when is it time to eat.  Taste for sweetness, adding a little sugar if desired and a dusting of cinnamon.  You will have the most wonderful applesauce ever, thick, sweet and hot.  The best part is you made it and know exactly what is in your sauce.  From start to finish in under an hour, less if you have helpers in the kitchen.

Leitersburg Peach Fest Update 2011

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It was American as, well, Peach Pie!  The  annual 2011 Leitersburg Peach Festival was a huge success.The peaches were plentiful and delicious!  The weather was perfect and the predicted rain held off for the entire week-end. 

The food choices were amazing, from the Leitersburg Fire Company’s BBQ Beef sandwiches, to choices of freshly made peach ice cream, peach cobbler, peach pie and of course, jams and peach butters.People stood in line to get a slice of freshly baked prize-winning peach pie.

Craft vendors in tents, dotted the hillside, selling their wares.

The tiny village of Leitersburg, Maryland, also jokingly referred to as “the urban center”, had bumper to bumper traffic for miles and two traffic cops, directed the vehicles.  Our 19th Century General Store, The Antique Garden, was dressed up in our tea-stained flag buntings.Friends, old and new stopped by the store and checked out the gardens and antiques inside.  Pictured here is politician and good guy, Jeff Cline on right, with John.On Sunday afternoon, Aca Perco performed on our porch to rave reviews.  Steve Wright and Jennie Avila are musicians, artists and teachers who reside in the city of Hagerstown, Maryland.

Yard sales and Sno-cone stands lined the streets of Leitersburg.  All in all it was a Peach of a week-end, with old-fashioned fun for all ages.  Now we have some baking to do to use up all those peaches and perhaps some peach jam making…..

The Zucchini Are Coming the Zucchini are Coming! BEST RECIPES

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                                                                                                                    Zucchini 101-preparation is key

                                                                                                           It took only two little plants and

                                                                                                            Lots of little squash babies were born.

Now I better get cooking ’cause the zucchini are exploding in the garden.  I mean they are rapidly producing cute  little squashes, that turn into big huge monsters. They multiply like rabbits if you don’t watch out.   Luckily I have several wonderful recipes that I depend on for my bounty. 

This bowl in my kitchen is filled with zucchini and Peter Pan squash. (I sent my husband to the nursery to select zucchini seedlings and he brought home a Peter Pan varietal!)

This Peter Pan squash can be used just like the zucchini squash.  Dixie is hypnotised by this curiosity.

No Dixie, this is not a food for doggies! 

Wash and dry a bunch of summer squash.  No need to peel. Chop into food processor size chunks.  You can remove any large seeds that look tough, especially in large squash.

Insert the shredding disc into a food processor or use an old-fashioned box grater on largest side. My Cuisinart is more than 20 years old and still works like a charm. Start grating squash, emptying bowl as it fills up with shreds, several batches should do it.

The shredded squash should look like this.

My large metal bowl is full of shredded zucchini and can be used in my recipes.  It is nice to have a bowl of this, on hand, in the refrigerator for lots of great recipes. From stir fry, soups, breads and my favorite savory appetizer, zucchini  pancakes, you’ll be actually glad you have so much squash. And yes, Dixie does eat raw zucchini and I can get my son, John to eat it too, if it’s hidden in these recipes. 

Now we are cooking.  Coming soon, the recipes, stay posted!

Corn-on-the-Cob is a Family Affair

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Love, love, love freshly picked local corn.  This is a truly American vegetable that is probably the #1 crop in the country.  Nothing beats fresh corn-on-the cob, whether you grill it, microwave, steam or boil. 

I believe that fresh corn should be purchased at a farm stand, preferably just several hours old.  I stopped at The Naked Farmer vegetable stand in Delaware, hoping the farmer would look similar to The Naked Cowboy in Manhattan, but alas, he was out picking watermelons. Forget that pre-peeled supermarket stuff, or God forbid, frozen inedible corn-on-the cob.  To be the best it must be farm fresh, refrigerated quickly when brought home and cooked within a day or two at the most.

It doesn’t matter to me if it is white “Silver-Queen”, or yellow & white, or pure yellow, I like just about any type of sweet corn.  Lucky for us we are surrounded by farms in all directions and it is easy to get fresh corn this time of year.  At one Mennonite farm stand they had run out of the daily corn they were selling and the woman running the stand told me to, ” just go down to the holler in the road and pick my own”.  I did and immediately went home to cook my prize that was still warm from the sun.

I have a couple of other rules about corn-on-the cob. First, it should be shucked out-of-doors as the silks get all over the place.  Second rule if you have a child or better yet, a hungry teenager around, make them peel the corn.  This is good for them and helps build character.

Also I don’t put up with any complainers, that fresh corn gets in their teeth, Jeez, get over it.  Unless the person has true dental problems, I don’t slice the corn off the cob for nobody.

My personal preference is to boil the freshly peeled corn in a large pot full of boiling water for anywhere between 1-10 minutes depending on desired softness.  I like mine more al dente and crunchy. It is funny how really good food, like lobster, potatoes or a good cut of meat, needs so little to be the best.  I serve corn with butter, salt and sometimes pepper, that is it.  Oh yes, you can heavily butter a slice of bread and use this to easily apply gobs of butter to the hot cob, then eat the bread.  Are you hungry yet?

I hope everyone has at least one piece of fresh corn-on-the cob this 4th of July, it is a fleeting thing of deliciousness. Enjoy!

Dixie Goes To Washington

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We just got back from a wonderful overnight buying trip in Southern Maryland and on the way stopped at our Nation’s Capitol for some sight-seeing and culture.   On our week-end trip, we decided to leave on a Sunday and spend the day in Washington, D.C. which is about 60 miles away from our home and store in Washington County, Maryland.   Sundays are an excellent time to see Washington, the government is basically closed and traffic is lighter.  What a great plan, not only did we find parking right on the street, it was free on Sundays with no time limit.

Did you know that the Smithsonian National Museums are totally free?    According to the literature, the Smithsonian Institution consists of 19 national museums and the National Zoo, in Washington, D.C.   Most are open daily from 10 AM to 5:30 PM and they are located right on the National Mall.  The telephone number is 202-633-1000 and information can be found at www. smithsonian.org .  We parked very close to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.  This is right next to the  fascinating Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian Castle and information Center. 

I dove right into the Hirshhorn and enjoyed the modern art from Andy Warhol to Alexander Calder and many other masters of fine art.  Outside on the mall it was a mild winter’s day and Dixie enjoyed the sights , not to mention the grass. If you bring your pet make sure to bring an emergency bag for any indiscretions! We walked all the way to the reflecting pool outside of the Capitol Building. The view is amazing and at the other end of the mall is the Washington Monument, truly breathtaking.  Dixie was very impressed.

Other places not to miss are the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum  and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue,near the Washington Monument. Be prepared for plenty of walking  on the cinder walkways, so comfortable footwear is a must.  Fast food is available at  kiosks selling hotdogs, pizza and pretzels if you get hungry.   There is also a children’s carousel that is sure to delight.

While Dixie was allowed at the outdoor areas of the mall, pets are not allowed inside the museums.  We love to travel with our little dog, Dixie.  Lucky for us several major hotel chains now take pets free of charge.  The two we have had good experiences with are La Quinta’s Inn and  the Drury Inns chains.  Pets are welcome in any room and according to staff the pets are often better behaved than many of the human guests. Make sure to pack your pets food, water bowl and a few dog biscuits to make them feel right at home. 

All in all it was an enjoyable trip, and one that everyone should experience at least once, including Dixie!

An Afternoon in India-Mughal Palace

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We just got back from a wonderful week-end visiting my family in Westchester County, New York.  Luckily for us living in Maryland we are literally only 4 hours from New York City and the suburbs to the north.  While the snow was incredibly deep after a series of snowstorms we managed to stay warm, eat, drink and be merry! 

The areas surrounding the city are populated with many different cultures and when we go out to eat in a restaurant it usually is to an ethnic cuisine. It is truly a melting pot that is unmatched.

We decided to go to my parents favorite restaurant in Valhalla, New York, called Mughal Palace.  It is located right across from the Metro-North train station, in the quaint village just minutes from the Valhalla Dam. I had been to this restaurant before, but it was a first my son, Andy and my husband John. Sunday brunch starts at 12 noon and is a tremendous value at only $14.95 a person for the bountiful buffet.  This is a great  way to introduce the beginner to Indian food, which can be completely overwhelming to the newcomer.

A sampling of amazing appetizers at Mughal Palace.

Set up with appetizers on one end, main dishes and a dessert table, the smells and aromas of various spices permeate the colorful room.  Waiters clad in white shirts, ties and slacks were friendly and explained what each dish and sauce was.  The tables are set with linen table cloths and napkins, a nice touch.  My dad insisted we try the Taj beer and he was right it is the perfect combination with the flavorful food. 

Start out with the incredible hot appetizers like Sada Dosai, a paper-thin, crisp crepe made from lentils and rice filled with spiced potato and pakora, mildly spiced vegetable fritters, lamp sausage bits, very spicy, and papadam, crisp fried mildly spiced wafers, spicy chicken wings, the only thing my son recognized, and salad.  Everything is accompanied with the best sauces ever!  Yummy cucumber raita is cooling, mango chutney is sweet and delicious, a mint sauce, Indian pickles, very hot and more that I can’t remember. Wonderful Indian sauces are my favorite part of this cuisine.

The unlimited entrees had the wonderful basmati rice, my favorite palak paneer, spinach with homemade cheese cooked in a medium spiced sauce, chicken tikka masala- a favorite of my Mom’s, various lamp dishes, shrimp, and more vegetable dishes-each just fantastic.  Served with the traditional nan bread.  We ate well and my son declared that he liked everything!  Amazing.  We saved room for a little dessert.  Mango pudding, rice pudding and lightly fried milk balls in a cardamom syrup completed our Sunday Brunch at Mughal Palace.  

If you enjoy ethnic food and some definite spice and different levels of heat then you will love Indian food and this restaurant which has been highly rated.  The Sunday Brunch is a very good value and a good way to get a sampling of the various foods of India.  You won’t leave hungry. 

My parents favorite restaurant is this Indian gem!

 Here is a quote from a reveiw of this restaurant-

The extensive menu spans North and South India, and incorporates Muglai cuisine, which fuses Indian and Middle-Eastern elements.  very well-prepared renditions of chicken tikka masala and sag paneer, you’ll find traditional Muglai dishes that might be new to you: coriander-scented lamb kabobs and rice pudding infused with saffron and rosewater, for instance.  The basmati rice brings in aspects of the Middle East; topped with fried onions, golden raisins, chopped pistachios, and cherry slivers-

Andy "liked" everything, amazing!


Game Night for Family Fun at Any Age

Game night playing Pinochle.



 
 

Game night playing Pinochle.

 

 
 

Does anyone play cards anymore?  I think it is time for an old-fashioned pastime to make a come back.  I love technology but there comes a time to pull the plug on the tv and the ear buds.  What I’ve rediscovered is a  simple deck of  ordinary playing cards!
 

If  it’s card night, I am probably at my in law’s house.  When I met my husband about seven years ago and he introduced me to his parents I often had to observe the spirited card games they played.  I grew up playing games with my beloved Grandmother.  We played Gin Rummy, Canasta and did jigsaw puzzles.   This game of cards they played, seemed difficult to learn.  When it was apparent that I was sticking around, they sat me down and taught me the rules of their game.  It was Pinochle, an old New York game they informed me.
 
 

 
 

My father-in-law has a good hand.

 

 
 

Now that I have learned the ways of meld, bidding, trump and marriages–a pinochle card term, I am hooked on this game.  Not only that, but I have taught my college aged boys how to play.  We often will play for hours at a time and it is a wonderful way to pass the time with family and friends of all ages.  I have discovered that I can get my son, a  college student at RIT, to sit down and play with his Mommy for hours.  Heck, we were even partners last week and we whooped the opposition.  I guess my Grandmother, born in 1899, knew how to connect with her grandchildren. Just play a game!
 
 
 

With the luck of the cards anything is possible.  Turn off the TV and get out the cards, serve some snacks, and I guarantee an evening that is fun and entertaining.  Not only that, you may connect with a friend or a loved one of any age.  P.S. if you don’t play this card game, there are so many other great games that don’t require electricity to try.  Other family favorites are Scrabble, Uno, Yahtzee or Chinese Checkers.  Try one tonight or schedule a game night and invite friends and family.  You may not win all your games but you will win a special bond with the ones you love!
 
 
 

Now if only I can get a run or double pinochle…..
 
 
 

My mother-in-law and partner in crime, I mean cards.

 

 
 


A True-Life Dog Story

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Ok this is what happened. The dogs were ignoring me after their playtime in the Christmas Blizzard of 2010. Maybe they were tuckered out or something.                                                                

                                                                                                                      

 I wanted to take a picture of the dogs for Christmas but they would have none of it. 

 I decided to bribe them with some delicious treats.     That really got their attention.  Good dogs, smile for the camera.  Want a yummy bacon bite….

and then a very funny thing happened…..

My 19-year-old son a sophomore in college no less, was offered a $20.00 bet to eat a yummy dog treat, by his loving brother.   And he did and so did Dixie….

and so did Jed.  The End of the dog story.

Wonderful Christmas Celebration with Family

The mantel at my parent's home artfully decorated by John.

  

 

The word of the day is gratitude. Gratitude for all we have and are blessed with. While enjoying our holiday festivities, I kept up with my yoga practice at Yogaworks studio in Irvington, New York this week. A fantastic place, overlooking the Hudson River, one of the teachers reminded us that although the season is filled with a flurry of activity and stresses, would you trade your life for any less? Imagine no invites and commitments, no holiday presents or gifts, no special cooking and foods. All this means is that you are wanted, needed and loved in this world. Proper perspective when you are feeling overwhelmed. 

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve, hosted at my brothers and sister-in-laws home.  Todd’s wife Diana is from an Italian-American family, and cooked up a storm of Northern Italian dishes like Polenta, Stromboli, Italian homemade sausage and too many delicious dishes to mention.  Christmas Day was spent at my parents home in New York and was a busy day, joined by my sons and concluded with our traditional roast beef dinner. 

My bro Todd hosted Christmas Eve.

Today the day after Christmas we are being graced by the beginnings of a Nor’Easter Blizzard.  How wonderful!! More reason to cook, eat and be merry and have gratitude for all our blessings.  Bless us all, each and every one of us. 

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!

The mantel at my parent's home artfully decorated by John.



The Christmas Stocking-Simple Things in a Crazy World

The stockings were hung by the children with care....


The stockings were hung by the children with care....

No matter if you’re a child of five or ninety-five, the tradition of the Christmas stocking is a favorite.  The amazing thing about the tradition of hanging a stocking at the mantle, even if my fireplace has long been bricked up, is it is the best-loved gift of all.  In an age of high-tech gizmos, computer games, cell phones, and a frenzy of keeping up with the Jones’, the simple stocking need not be fancy.   

My 15-year-old son just informed me that the stocking that Santa brings is his favorite gift.  Ok let see, this the youngest son of two older brothers, who has an extended family which includes step parents and multitudes of Aunts and doting Grandparents.  This sweetie pie has an in ground pool at his father’s house, ATV’s, paint ball guns,skis ,iPods, he is on his third cell phone, a computer, and video game consoles, etc….you get the picture, more stuff than many third world nations.  So what his is favorite gift and his older brothers favorite gift that his financially challenged mother makes magically appear at  the hearth on Christmas morn?  It is the Christmas Stocking filled with goodies from the dollar store.  

If you ask this trio what their favorite gift is, most likely they will tell you it is the Christmas stocking!

With a clementine in the toe, the treasured stocking may hold this year, dental floss, a new toothbrush-I am a mother after all, some Hershey kisses, body wash, socks, and small cans of V-8 vegetable juice, some home-made cookies and some candy canes.  The V-8 is for my two college age boys who may not be eating all their fruits and vegetables.  Maybe they realize that simple is good. Not only good, but maybe more thought and love goes into the small things in life that money can’t buy.   They are truly the best and that is a lesson I am glad to pass on to my boys.