Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato." ~ Lewis Grizzard

I haven't made my own spaghetti sauce in several years.  During my final decade of teaching, I was involved in a scheduled school project two weeks before the new school year began, and then we would head to Cape Cod right before Labor Day Weekend.  I just didn't have the time to make sauce when tomatoes were at their peak.  I had intended to make some last summer, since I wouldn't have an impending school year  hanging over my head - but somehow the time got away from me.  I was determined to do it this year though, especially since I intend to have homemade sauce and pasta as my main meal for our "local foods" themed BITE in a few weeks.

I confess, I seriously forgot how much work it is!  I managed to stay very local in my supplies though.

~onions, peppers and 50 lbs. of tomatoes from Diescher Farms~

~I dislike chunky sauce - so I use my Victorio Sauce Strainer, which separates the seeds and skin from the liquid~
~basil from my backyard~
~garlic from our friends, the Beekman's~

~into the canner~
~one half of my bounty~
 Come December, the hard work will be a distant memory, and I will delight in opening a jar of fresh summer flavor!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

“Bang bang bang. I understand now why so many horror movies use that device-the mysterious knock on the door-because it has the weight of a nightmare. You don't know what's out there, yet you know you'll open it. You'll think what I think: No one bad ever knocks.” ~ Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

Last weekend, I read the New York Times current #1 bestseller Gone Girl by Gillian Welsh.  I was amazed that I got it from the library when I did.  The last that I checked, I was number 34 out of 82 on the reserve list!  I understand it now though – I read it in less than 48 hours – I could not put it down!  When Bruce suggested dinner and a movie on Saturday, of course I agreed, and loved both (the movie – Hope Springs – wonderful; the dinner – Mexican – delicious; the company – my favorite).  In the car though, my mind kept coming back to the book – What was going to happen?  Was Amy really missing?  Was Nick responsible?

The one thing that I know I can’t do when talking about this book is to try to tell you anything about the plot.  I fear that I would somehow give away something that readers really must discover on their own. Below is the synopsis found on Amazon - I figure that's pretty safe.

"Marriage can be a real killer"

One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn. 

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around."  

This story is a thriller, a mystery, and a psychological head-game extraordinaire.  It will not keep you up at night because you fear that an ax-murderer is lurking in your basement. But - it may have you looking at the person sleeping next to you and wondering - hmmmmm?  (not me)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"I've Been Meaning to Make that!" ~ August's BITE Theme

Tierney was in charge of determining this month's BITE theme, and she decided to have us each pick a recipe that we have been meaning to try, but just haven't gotten around to!  What fun!  All I have to do is look at my Pinterest Boards for inspiration - heaven knows I have enough pins!  My part of our recent dinner was the side-dish.  I have often drooled over the "onion tart" recipes that I have seen on Pinterest and elsewhere - and this was the perfect opportunity for me to finally make one.  I also made some roasted asparagus (not pictured) so that we did, indeed, have something "green"! As always, you can click on the links to go to the recipes, but they can also be accessed on my BITE page at the right-hand column of my blog.

Chris was responsible for our opening offering and she chose first to prepare Kalamata Olives and Chevre Phyllo Appetizers.  She additionally prepared Pico de Gallo using her garden fresh tomatoes.
The salty tartness of the Kalamata Olives and Chevre Phyllo Appetizers was just wonderful!
Tomatoes from Chris's garden!
Next was my Creamy Onion Tart with a slight variation in the recipe.  I read through a number of tart choices with different ingredients, settling on this one.  Many others that I looked at however, had the addition of gruyere. Anything so quiche-like really needs cheese - in my humble "quiche" opinion.  so - I added 1 cup of shredded gruyere to this recipe. Another alteration I made to the original recipe is that I used 2 medium-sized sweet onions rather than one large white onion.  I must say that I thought it tasted really good!
~sautéing sweet onions in my new, beautiful, All-Clad sauté pan!
~to a light golden color~
~cream, whole milk and beautiful brown eggs from my friend Sue's chickens~
~grated gruyere~
~ blind baking the tart crust~
~a little grated nutmeg to add to the mixture~
~pour it all into the tart shell~
~and bake - delicious! 
For our main dish, Tierney cooked up Balsamic and Onion Pot Roast.  All I can say is, "Oh my!"  I love pot roast, but we all agreed that it is something that we just don't often cook.  What a delicious treat this was, and a wonderful compliment to the onion tart.
When we walked in, the smell of this cooking was just amazing!  It had a nice balsamic tang and bite to it - just delicious!
~reducing the cooking broth down to a wonderful sauce~
Ellen made this month's dessert, and since desserts are her specialty - we knew we were in for a treat!  She made Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake!

Now, we all know that zucchini is good for us, but the more we learn, it turns out that chocolate is as well!  So there you have it - a rich, sweet, moist dessert that is good for you! (finally)
Being the thoughtful friend and hostess that she is, Tierney had special words for each of us next to our place-settings.  I realize that I need to step up my game when I host next month!

As always - we spent a lovely evening in the company of good and dear friends.  Doesn't get much better!

September is my month to choose our food theme, and I told the others awhile back that I would like to focus on local foods. There should still be an abundance of produce available, and as the "local food" movement has grown nationwide, it has around us as well. Not to fear that we have completely moved away from our "country" themed meals.  Chris has October, and we will be cooking "Transylvania"- a historical region in Central Romania and a great Halloween themed country.  Till then, as Julia would say ~ 

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you are." ~ James Burke

"Imagine, if you will, multiple museums and outstanding collections
on a single campus that provide a one-stop chronicle of life in this
part of New York State."

In early June, a new collection of museums had their grand opening locally.  The Central New York Living History Center, located at 4386 U.S. Route 11 in Cortland, NY, is home to The Homeville Museum, The Brockway Trucks Museum, and The Tractors of Yesteryear.  

The Homeville Museum holds a very special place in my heart.  This collection of military and railroad memorabilia, along with an amazing number of other historic contributions, was amassed over a lifetime of collecting by Homer resident, Ken Eaton.  Mr. Eaton, as I knew him, was the father of my childhood friend, Diana, and his museum was actually housed in his home for many decades.  Mr. Eaton opened his doors to anyone who had an interest in history, and as a teacher, I took many a class to his home over the years.  The fact that his house was located directly across the street from school made this an easy and popular field trip. It was Mr. Eaton's dream that his collection live on to be shared with others, and following his death in 2006, I am very grateful that his dream has come to life.

When he first moved into the home that was to house the museum, Diana and I helped with the interior painting.  As a thank-you for our help, Mr. Eaton took us out for dinner to the local Howard Johnsons (long since gone) and I had fried clams. Now - I would struggle to tell you where my car keys are right now, but I remember clearly that I had fried clams for dinner that night, nearly 40 years ago.  Go figure!

The new home for The Homeville Museum is located in the main structure of the CNY Living History Center, as is the Brockway Museum, and the Center's gift shop - where I can be found behind the register most Wednesday mornings.  The main structure also contains a theater (still in progress), a large room with tables for social events or for seating for visiting groups, a kitchen, and a library that is also a work in progress.

The Homeville Museum

"Cortland, New York is unique in that it is the only place in the world where Brockway trucks were manufactured. For over half a century, the influence of the Brockway truck had a major affect on the economy of this community and they were distributed worldwide. Now they are all antiques and are being lovingly restored by loyal Brockway enthusiasts and driven to shows all over the country and abroad." ~ The Brockway Truck Preservation Association

The Brockway Museum

Located in the red barn adjacent to the main museum is the Tractors of Yesteryear Museum (T.O.Y.S)

"Tractors of Yesteryear (T.O.Y.S) is an antique tractor club whose center is Central New York and whose membership exceeds 300. The T.O.Y.S. museum collection includes antique tractors, threshing machines, corn shellers, corn binders, ensilage cutters, stalk cutters, beet cutters, plows and many other items used on farms 50 to 150 years ago. The collection also includes butter churns, ox yokes, flat irons, shoulder water carriers, scythes, and cradles used in old rural America. The T.O.Y.S. collection gives life to the agricultural history of Central New York and all of rural America." 

The Tractors of Yesteryear Museum

If you live nearby and haven't had a chance to visit, plan a trip - you won't be disappointed.  If you don't live nearby, but are in Central New York - the museum makes a great destination for a day trip.  You should plan to set aside about two hours to allow yourself enough time to enjoy all three museums.  And - if you are out of state, but find that you will be in the Cortland area for a different reason, such as our recent Jets Football Camp, or a college reunion, find time to fit in a side trip to Central New York's Living History Center.

As with most endeavors of this kind, donations are what keep things going - so please consider making a contribution if you are able.  Volunteers are also needed as gift shop cashiers, landscapers, tour guides, etc. Please contact the museum if you find that you are able to spare a few hours.

"Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward."
Søren Kierkegaard

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

“If you're afraid of butter, use cream.” ~ Julia Child

1996 photo by David Carson, for  USA Today
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child.  I well imagine that there are many bloggers writing about Julia today, and I want to be one of them!  A few years back, when the film Julie & Julia was released, my book group decided to read the book upon which the film was based.  Most of us also read My Life in France along with it.  The woman who hosted book group that month put on a full Julia Child spread, right down to her famous beef bourguignon.  What an undertaking, and what a feast!

I loved both books, and the film, and am now interested in reading the recently released Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child written by Bob Spitz.  The book has only been out a week, and is not available in my library system yet, so I will be waiting awhile.
"I rank her as one of the great women of the 20th century, right along Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie O and Oprah," says Spitz, author of the 2006 best seller The Beatles. "This was a woman who not only changed how we eat but how we live. The food thing has evolved since her, but she lit the fuse, and the fireworks are still going off."

I recently stumbled across Julia's recipe for lobster souffle, and had every intention of trying my hand at it prior to this post, but life seems to have gotten in the way with travel and other "life" things. So - in the future, I promise a lobster souffle post - it sounds absolutely divine.

There was a recent a article in USA Today regarding Julia and her 100th birthday if you care to learn a bit more about the ongoing celebration.

So Happy Birthday Julia! With a stick of butter in my hand, I salute you!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

These past few days have found me in Vermont.  I am here for my niece's bridal shower, but came a few days early to spend some time visiting my sister, Robin.  It's a nice little vacation for me, mixed with catching up, visiting yarn shops, and shopping.  It has been somewhat overcast and hazy, so the lovely green pictures that I had hoped to get just haven't occurred.  I love however, how beautiful and soft the shots are of the Adirondack Mountains, taken across Lake Champlain

Including a runaway red balloon!

Sail Away!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Life is not significant details, illuminated by a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are." ~ Susan Sontag

My father has spent a lot of time in recent years sorting through decades of pictures, report cards, letters, etc. from all of we Rhodes Girls.  I am amazed by the things that he has saved over the years - things that I had long ago forgotten about.  He is in the process of giving each of us a bag with our own memorabilia and it has been a blast to look through them.  Some of the pictures and letters (back from when actual letters were written) are a little cringe inducing, and I probably won't share those here, but I thought it would be fun to show you a few of my earliest pictures with some of my long gone grandparents and great-grandparents.

Here I am, being held by my mother and in the company of my great-grandparents, Arthur and Fanny Anderson.  My Grandma and Grandpa Anderson emigrated to the United States, along with my grandmother, from Norway.  They lived long enough that I have very clear memories of them both, and especially clear memories of their home.  I wonder why that is?  They were wonderful, wonderful people.
I loved my Raggedy Ann (at my feet) and still have my last one, minus an arm.  I'm not sure where it went!
What a cute dress I'm wearing!
With my mother, my grandfather Paul Young, and my great-grandmother, Norma Young.  My grandfather was a real sports enthusiast, and while he loved us dearly, I suspect he would have loved a grandson somewhere in the mix!  I also have clear memories of my Great-grandma Young.  Sadly, she had not had an easy life and was therefore, not a very happy woman.
With my mother and my Grandma Lunkin.  her real name was Adelma, but my sisters and I called her Grandma Lunkin after a Norwegian song that she used to sing as she danced with us around the kitchen.  The most loving, wonderful and madcap grandmother any grandchild could ever have.
So there you have it - some of my earliest pictures.  I suspect that my bag of memorabilia will be the fodder of future posts.  If I get really, really brave - I may even share my 7th grade picture!!! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"Good things come to those who wait." ~ English Proverb

I covet All-Clad cookware.  If it's good enough for The Barefoot Contessa, it's good enough for me! In truth though, it's too pricey for an out-of-pocket purchase.  So - a number of years back, I began asking for Williams Sonoma gift cards for birthdays and Christmas - which I stashed in a drawer till I had enough. About three years ago I made my first acquisition - a 10-inch All-Clad skillet.  Love it - love it, love it!

My most recent gift card purchase was All-Clad’s d5 Stainless Steel, 4 Qt. Saute Pan, which arrived the other day - to squeals of delight!  I determined which pan I wanted after reading this article.

Isn't it beautiful?
Just look at it shine!
It came with a splatter screen. 

My christening dish was just a simple saute of:

  •  Raw shrimp
  • Olive Oil
  • White wine (lots)
  • Fresh chopped garlic
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Chiffonade of fresh basil 
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few red pepper flakes

And toasted baguette to soak up all of the delicious broth! 
I have already begun to explore what my next purchase will be, though I know that it will be a few years down the road.  So - friends and family - keep those gift cards coming!!!  And - Thank You!