My Old School

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Not too long ago, I heard the city of Philadelphia described as a city of “eds and meds”, meaning that there are a lot of educational and medical facilities in and around the city. Which is true; you don’t have to go too far around here before you stumble onto a college campus or some kind of world-class hospital. And I can tell you from first-hand experience that if you’ve got some kind of condition that you need treatment for, we’ve got you covered.

“I’ll take ‘Doctors Specializing in Multi-Lobed Unruptured Aneurysms’ for $1000, Alex.”

And man, do we have colleges and universities. I know it’s a cliché, but we’ve got every major from Architecture to Zoology here. We’ve got an Ivy (Penn), a couple of satellite campuses of the official state college (Penn State Abington, Brandywine and Great Valley), a huge urban university in a questionable area (Temple in North Philadelphia), an agriculturally-focused one in the far northern suburbs (Delaware Valley University), elite liberal arts colleges (Swarthmore, Haverford), one of the Seven Sisters (Bryn Mawr), a historically Black one (Cheyney), the “Big 5” for all of your college basketball needs (Penn, Temple, LaSalle, St. Joe’s and Villanova), a handful of smaller, private colleges (Chestnut Hill, Rosemont, Cabrini).

I decided to jump-start my college career (I’ve lost count how many times I’ve done that) at my local community college, Delaware County Community College. I applied online during a break in between meetings a few years ago and got accepted 15 minutes later. Community colleges get a really bad rap, I think. Their mission is to serve the community at large and help everyone further their education, whether you’re working towards a specific degree or just want to take a few non-credit courses in flower arranging. I thought I’d save floral design for another time, so I dove right into working on an associate’s degree in Business Administration.

Which is wonderful and great, but if I want to sit for my CPA license, I need a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s as well, since Pennsylvania requires 160 college credits to sit for the CPA certification. Which means I’d have to transfer to a four-year school, which means I’d have to figure out where I wanted to go.

But I already had the answer to that question. Around fifteen years ago, I was driving down Lancaster Avenue in Radnor, PA and I had to stop for a red light. To my left were the double spires of St. Thomas Of Villanova, the huge Catholic church on Villanova’s campus. Students were crossing Lancaster in their ‘Nova sweatshirts with their backpacks slung over their shoulders, hurrying off to the library or to their Russian Lit class.

And I was envious of them. Jealous and angry at myself for not working harder when I was in high school and realizing a little too late that if I was going to go to college, the whole load would be on me. I was pissed off at the ridiculous, stifling patriarchy that colored most of childhood from the time my stepfather entered my life at 9 to the time I moved out when I was 19.

I was up at 5 in the morning, getting ready to go to work. I had been offered a great job at a Big Financial Services Firm a few months earlier and the commute was, and there’s no other way to put it, a bitch. The opportunity was too terrific to pass up, so P and I figured that I’d do the hour-long drive for a couple of months and we’d move somewhere closer in the spring, probably after my graduation from DCCC in May.

I’m half-asleep and there’s a fifteen-pound cat batting the leg of my pajamas with his paw, because he’s clearly wasting away waiting for his breakfast. I take my phone out of airplane mode and I see my new email headers floating across the screen. As I’m putting Frogger’s tuna-and-chicken into his bowl, I see something that stops me cold:

“News From Villanova University”

I give Frogger his breakfast, walk into the living room and fire up my laptop. I already knew my application had been reviewed holistically by the adult/continuing education college at the school and it was passed on to very competitive business school for consideration. Villanova’s b-school’s no joke; it was recently voted the best business school in the country. I’d already been warned by two advisors at both DCCC and Villanova that this is no slam dunk and despite a general 3.78 GPA, I may not be accepted.

And now I get it. Now I finally understand why all of my high school friends, the ones who where in the honor society with the great grades and who worked their asses off, the ones who were waiting to hear from Columbia and Princeton and Northwestern and Syracuse, died a little bit every day when they came home to find a letter from their college of choice in their mailbox. Was it a thin envelope or a fat one? Was it full of possibilities or a polite refusal? Can I brag about it tomorrow or will I cry at my locker?

So here I am, at 5:12 in the morning, going through the exact same thing. I’m 52, in my flannel pajamas and socks, working my laptop. I’ve worked my ass off for my 3.78, and I’ll probably graduate with high honors. If Villanova says “Uh, no thanks”, Temple will be more than happy to have me.

Age does that to you, you know. You accept disappointment a little better. I mean, Temple’s got a great accounting program, too. So, I click.

So.

Son of a bitch. I’m in. I did it. I did it. I got into the college of my choice. I’m…stunned. Really? I’m in.

I’m in. I did it. I’m a Wildcat. I’m a Villanova Wildcat.

Son of a bitch.

I got the fat letter.

 

2 + 2 = 5

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I’m not sure when or how I decided to major in accounting. I remember chatting with one of the many medical technicians I came into contact with at Fox Chase who was telling me used to be an accountant but changed careers. I also remember driving by a billboard that was featuring a local junior college’s accounting program. And I didn’t take any career evaluations that are supposed to point you towards the right field of study based on whether or not you chose chicken or salmon when asked what you’d order for dinner at a restaurant.

I do know that, despite having some of the worst math teachers in history while I was growing up, I somehow ended up being good with numbers. Thanks to a wonderful (and incredibly patient) precalculus professor, I discovered that if I took my time and worked out the problems I could actually be a bit of a “numbers person”. I’ll admit I was way out of my league when Linear Algebra proved to be too much to handle, but I figured getting through Calc 2 was enough of an accomplishment for someone well into her late 30s who still didn’t quite know what she wanted to be when she eventually grew up.

When I decided to go back and really, really, for the love of everything that’s good on this Earth, finish college, I had a more than a few things to consider. The first item on the agenda was time. As much as I would have loved to have majored in art history and forged a new career as an art historian at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I had to seriously think about how many productive years I might have left. No kidding; this is something you have to come to grips with when you’re doing a complete career change in your early 50s. This isn’t something you have to give much thought to when you’re 18 and just starting out.

The next brain wave to consider was how to leverage twenty years of business experience into something I could build a new career out of, which is why accounting made sense. The problem was, I’d never taken an accounting course. Not that not being sure about something had ever stopped me from jumping into the deep end of the pool before (see the previous fifty-one years of my life for starters), but I just wanted to be sure I’d be good at it and, more importantly, that I liked it. I like to think I’m a pretty good executive assistant, but I do know this isn’t what I want to be doing in twenty-five years.

alma mater number one

Delaware County Community College – Alma Mater #1

Financial Accounting is required for all Business Administration majors at Delaware County Community College, so I took that as my first class. It was my first dip into college since The Great Linear Algebra Disaster Of 2000. And I aced it. Not only did I pass with flying colors, I was good at it and I loved it.

But this was only for the two-year associate’s degree, not the four-year bachelor’s. Which meant I also had to figure out where to go after DC3.

Stay tuned.

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Now, where was I?

Oh, yes. It was March of last year, the last time I wrote and posted anything into this space, in my little corner of WordPress.  I was on the tail end of recovering from my aneurysm repair surgery, taking macroeconomics and managerial accounting at school and hitting the “Reset” button on my job hunt. I was planning on teaching a few spring crochet classes at Hidden River Yarn and I believe I was working on a store sample that was making me crazy. I seem to think there was something else going on too, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was right now. I’m sure it’ll come to me.

Things were moving along just fine and I stopped writing about it all. Not that I’d fallen out of love with it, but I felt that I’d ran out of things to write about. Last spring I was still a recovering cancer patient. I was only a year removed from the end of my treatment and even though I was writing about experiences other than cancer, I was still framing them around my recovery process. I recently realized I didn’t become bored with writing; I’d gotten tired of writing about my cancer.

This was never meant to be a blog about my cancer fight, which is why it’s refreshing to come back to this a year or so later with a pair of fresh eyes and a renewed spirit. I’ve had some wonderful things happen to me over the past few months or so. I’m in good health and I just had a great checkup at Fox Chase. I started a full-time job at a very large financial services firm and I’m graduating from my local community college with my associates degree in May. My boyfriend and I (and Frogger, of course) are moving to a really nice little town in a few months.

And starting in September, I’m going to be a part-time college student at Villanova University. A 52-year-old college sophomore.

This is the stuff that’s worth writing about. This is going to be fun again.

Spuds MacKenski

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I was the typical latch-key kid when I was growing up. My parents divorced when I was three, so I spent most of my childhood with a length of blue yarn dangling around my neck that held my key to the front door of our house.

I spent the holidays being shuttled in between my mom’s house in central New Jersey and my father’s apartment in the northern part of the state. The holiday routine meant I’d have dinner with my mom, stepfather and other family members early in the afternoon, usually around one or so. Then my dad would pick me up about three and we’d drive to wherever it was the second holiday dinner of the day was going to be.was being held. Sometimes it was my paternal grandmother’s house or her stepsister’s-daughter-in-law.

Yeah, I know. I used to get very confused, too.

I ate a lot on holidays. Even as a kid I loved and appreciated good food and it was always great fun to have two holiday meals. I jokingly call myself an “Eastern European mutt”, but both of my grandmothers came over from Poland. There was always lots of roasted pork and ham, gawumpki (stuffed cabbage rolls), kielbasa and kapusta (Polish sauerkraut), kishka (blood sausage). Soup with duck blood (yep) for Easter at my babchi’s, kruschiki (deep-fried pastry cookies with confectioner’s sugar) for snacking at the other’s. And babka for breakfast or anytime, really.

And pierogi. Pierogi are, of course, the pockets of boiled or fried (or both) dough, usually filled with potatoes and cheese or wild mushrooms and sauerkraut or other tasty things. They’re delicious and wonderful and people of Polish descent (yours truly included) have been known to stuff themselves silly with them.

In fact, I’d have these for dinner a lot more than I do if it weren’t for two things: the frozen ones are just plain, flat-out awful and they’re a bit of a bother to make from scratch. Okay, they’re a huge bother to make. First you make the dough and then the filling. Then you roll and cut out the dough, fill the pierogi, boil and/or fry them. Then you finally get to eat them.

It’s a lot of work and it’s no wonder that it’s a group activity for some families, some of who crank out hundreds of these babies. And having made these from scratch a few times I can honestly tell you that, unlike big cooking projects that tell you “it’s not as big as a project as it seems”, well. I’ll tell you upfront it is a huge deal and that you’re probably better off finding an Eastern European shop or deli in your area that makes their own and buying them there.

So a few years ago, my mom and her boyfriend went to the Christmas party at the local VFW and she came back raving about something called “pierogi stuffed shells”. “It’s a pierogi without the work!” and she went on (and on and on) about these pasta shells stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese and topped with sautéed onions in butter. She even bought a plate back with her for me to try. They were good. Not “homemade pierogi” good, but really tasty. I thought the filling was lacking, but I loved the idea.

I made them a few times and tinkered with the potato and cheese filling. More butter, less butter, less milk, more cream, Cheddar, sour cream, smoked Gouda. The traditional cheese to put into pierogies (despite what Mrs. T. puts into hers) is farmer cheese or dry curd cottage cheese, neither of which seems to be made any longer. I When I decided to make these last weekend for the Super Bowl, I thought that goat cheese might be a reasonably good substitute for The Cheese That No Longer Exists.

I was right.

So, here’s the recipe for them. I don’t have exact measurements, only approximations, so you’ll have to make a few judgement calls. They’re little carb bombs, but they’re great for family gatherings since you can make them ahead of time.

Pierogi Stuffed Shells (makes about 24)

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Yeah, baby.

  • Unsalted butter, about 1 ½ cups worth
  • Chopped onions, about 3 or 4 large ones
  • 1 box of stuffing shells (I used Barilla). Cook the whole box because some of them might be broken and some will stick to the bottom of the pot and some will rip and…
  • About 1 – 1 ½ lbs. of starchy potatoes (baking potatoes will do nicely), peeled and diced.
  • Splash of milk or cream
  • Dried thyme
  • 2 – 4 ounces of a soft goat cheese, something not too…goaty. A mild chevre should do it. If you don’t like goat cheese, try a really mild Monterey Jack.
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  • Lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Melt 2 sticks of the butter in a sauté pan over a medium head and add the onions. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and cook over a low heat until they’re golden and almost caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes or so. Don’t burn them.
  2. Cook the pasta shells in boiling salted water until they’re not even al dente, about 7 minutes or so. Don’t overcook these, or they’ll be really hard to stuff. Besides, they’re going to cook in the oven. When they’re done, drain them and place them on a sheet of foil so they don’t stick together.
  3. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until they’re done. Drain them, add some butter, a splash of cream, salt and pepper (a good amount of both), a healthy pinch of dried thyme and mash until smooth. Stir in the cheese and about 1/3 of the sautéed onions. Taste to see if they need anything else. When you’re happy with the filling, stir in the parsley and set it aside. Try not to eat it all.
  4. Very lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Fill each shell with a heaping soup spoon of the filling and start lining them up in the baking dish. You should end up with around 24 shells.
  5. Spoon the rest of the sautéed onions over the shells. If you’re making them ahead of time, cover the baking dish with foil and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake them.
  6. When you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 375°. Bake them, covered, for about 30 minutes or so. Take the foil off and give them about another 15 more.
  7. And, done. Serve with rye or pumpernickel bread with butter and applesauce. Salad would be good, so would pickled beets. Kapusta, too.
  8. Enjoy!

Snow Patrol

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We got snowed in and I couldn’t be happier.

I love snow; always have. I grew up next door to a small park that is probably a whole lot bigger in my memory than it actually is, but memories do that as we get older, don’t they?

It was big enough to have a basketball court, a small playground, a Little League-sized baseball field tucked into one of the corners and a large hill that was just perfect for sledding down. It was pretty steep and if you got enough momentum going, it was entirely possible to end up down in the middle of the park, between the basketball court and the slide.

And it was right next door to the house. True, I probably would have preferred living next door to the local library, but since I had a tendency to be on the, ahem, chunky side as a kid, I was probably better off living next door to Woodland Park.

It was always great fun to have school cancelled, drag the sled out of the garage and take it next door for a couple of hours. And it was always more fun to come back home, get out of the wet stuff and into dry clothes. With some hot chocolate and cookies, natch.

Here in Philly, we ended up with around two feet of snow. Of course, now when it snows I have to make sure we have enough cat food and people food and baking supplies and tea. I remember when wine and cigarettes were on that list, but no more.

But the makings for lasagna and apricot linzer torte bars were. And cookies are always good, blizzard or no blizzard.


I found this recipe on the Betty Crocker website when I was craving thumbprint cookies. You know those; you usually see recipes for them around the holidays. They’re a butter cookie that’s dipped in beaten egg white and then rolled around in finely chopped nuts. Then you take your thumb, make an indentation and fill it with jam before you bake them. They’re beautiful to look at and absolutely delicious, but a bit of a “do” to make. I’ve made them for the holidays and I’ll be honest; the older I get, the less fuss I want to deal with, cookies included.

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Tea, anyone?

I make mine just a bit differently from the recipe though (of course I do). For some reason, there’s no salt in the cookie base part of the recipe and you need salt to bring out the subtle flavors of the butter and ground nuts. And I like less “base” and more topping too, so mine’s more like a filled cookie bar.

The only other suggestion I’d make is to use a really good jam or fruit spread for the filling, and warm it up a bit before you spread it on the base. Sprinkle a bit of confectioner’s sugar on top if you’d like, and you’re ready for tea.

Apricot Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup of unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup ground walnuts
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup of fruit jam, preserves, conserves or spread (please promise me you won’t use grape)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix everything but the jam together until it looks like coarse crumbs. You can use a fork, two knives or a pastry cutter, but your fingers work best for this. Besides, it’s fun!
  3. Put half of the mixture into a 9”x9” pan. Press it evenly  into the bottom of the pan and then press down into the corners to make sure it’s nice and firm.
  4. Warm up the jam a bit in the microwave. Spread it over the base evenly and out to the corners. Sprinkle the rest of the cookie mixture evenly and lightly press into the fruit filling.
  5. Let it bake for about 25 minutes or until it’s nice and golden. Let it cool completely before you cut into these; the filling is crazy hot.
  6. Enjoy!

“Going 100 MPH Now”

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I woke up last Sunday morning feeling great. road-runner

Seriously.  When I got out of bed, I had a spring in my step and a song in my heart.  I did my exercises   and stretches and showered and made a huge pot of marinara sauce. I put some semolina bread dough together to rise and cast on for a new afghan. I started feeling a little weary around the middle of the afternoon, but no matter. Dinner was going to be a big pan of baked penne and it was going to be good.

I felt a bit more tired right before I took the casserole out of the oven, but that’s okay. We were going to have a really nice dinner and then I was going to get some writing done. And maybe, just maybe, I was going to stay up really late. Like, 10 o’clock or something crazy.

I ended up falling asleep on the couch at 7 and I was in bed by 9. Pfft.

What happened? What always happens, of course. I did the exact same thing last year when I was recovering from my cancer treatments. I rest up for a bit and then I feel better. Then I do a whole bunch of stuff and wonder why I’m all wiped out for the next couple of days. You know, one step forward, three steps sideways. Or something like that.

This isn’t a great time to be on the DL. I have Things To Do. The spring term starts next week. I have to update my resume so it’s ready to go at the end of the month. I need to figure out what projects I’ll be teaching in my spring crochet classes. It’s not the best time in the world to need a nap.

Then I smack myself upside the head a couple of times to bring myself back to reality. I have the most wonderful guy in the world taking care of me. I’m lucky and fortunate enough to have family and friends who love me and are getting me through all this crap.  My health insurance rocks.  And despite all of my challenges over the past year, I had a great contract position where I worked with terrific people and took on all kinds of new responsibilities. I went back to school.  I have nothing, and I mean nothing, to complain about.

All I have to do is remember is that I have to rest in order to heal well, even though I don’t like doing that very much at all. And to stop bitching so much about it.


My late stepfather loved chocolate pudding, so I made (and ate) a lot of it as a little kid. It was usually My-T-Fine or Royal or some other brand that came in a little box. It was easy to make and it went down a treat. It was even better with a squirt of Reddi Whip on top.

When I moved out on my own I stopped making and eating it for some reason. And it wasn’t until a few years back that I started making it again. At first I tried Ina Garten’s recipe for it and oh, it’s wonderful. I love Ina to bits, but let’s be honest; her recipe is a real PITA. And it’s really rich and fatty. I know, it’s chocolate pudding and what’s the point if it’s not? It’s delicious.

This recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites is fabulous. I’ve made it the way I’ve written it below many, many times. It’s nice and creamy and chocolatey. What’s really great about it is that you can use regular milk or even use a combo of milk and half and half if you want it really silky. I often throw a small handful of chocolate chips at the end just to make it that much better. Ina also suggests putting in a tiny pinch of salt (yes, you read that right) into the pudding to point up the chocolate flavor. And she’s right.

Don’t forget the Reddi Whip.


Chocolate Pudding

  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp.  unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk the powders together well and make sure it’s lump free.
  2. Add the milk and whisk together to combine well.
  3. Over a low heat and stirring constantly, bring the pudding mixture up to a low boil. Still stirring, let it bubble away for about 2 minutes or so.
  4. Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour into a serving bowl or individual dishes. Serve warm or chill. Don’t forget to eat the pudding that doesn’t make it into the serving bowl.
  5. Enjoy!

 

“The Special Beans”

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So I’ve been home about a week and a half now and I’m bored.

Not in the sense of “I-have-nothing-to-do” definition of the phrase. No. It’s more like “I-have-lots-to-do-and-don’t-feel-like-doing-any-of-it”.

I started socks and cast on for an afghan for the living room couch, which needed a big jump start since I screwed up the first couple of rows. I still have socks that need mates, fingerless mitts that need thumbs and my little crafting area in the living room is quickly descending into crafty chaos. I have knitting stuff in with my crocheting stuff and crocheting things in with the knitting things and the next thing you know cats and dogs will be living together and all hell will break loose.

Ahem.

Anyway, part of the problem is going through the whole recovery process again. I figured that going down this road wouldn’t be such a big deal the second time around and while it really isn’t, it’s still yet another chunk of time where I’d love to Get Things Accomplished. And every time I start down that path, the brain steps in and says, “Yeah, not so fast. I’m healing up here. Let’s go and take a nap.”

Which is all very well and good, but I’ve become absolutely used to knocking things off of my to-do list left and right. I haven’t picked up my DayRunner in a couple of weeks and I can’t remember when my spring semester starts. One of the happier consequences about getting back to “real life” in the spring was being able to organize my life around working again. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but structure is good and it was something I craved.

And because of that, it was nice being able to sort of slip back into doing something food-related yesterday afternoon. As usual, we did our weekly food shop and since it was cool, it was really sweet to be able to put something together that wasn’t very hard to do. This recipe comes from “The New England Cookbook” and even though it looks like it takes a long time to cook, you can pull this together and be eating in about an hour, if not less. I thought there was some leftover oatmeal molasses bread in the freezer, but it turns out it’s all gone. That’s okay. Multigrain crackers and goat cheese worked just fine, too.

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Oooh!

Incidentally, this is the kind of “pantry dish” that you always hear about. You can absolutely substitute white or cannellini beans for the chickpeas and spinach is fine in place of the chard. Any type of a small pasta will work and a bit of tomato paste instead of the canned chopped ones.


Chickpea and Pasta Soup

  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 rib of celery and celery leaves, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 7 cups of vegetable broth (chicken would be fine too, if you must)
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz. of small pasta, like ditalini or elbows or small shells
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (I use 1/8 tsp., so do what you like)
  • About 3 or 4 large Swiss chard leaves, trimmed and chopped small-ish
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pecorino Romano cheese

 

  1. Heat a large soup pot and warm up the olive oil in it.
  2. Add the celery and garlic and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn!
  3. Add the broth, chickpeas and the tomatoes. Give it a bit of salt and pepper since it’ll need a bit of it. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and let it cook, partially uncovered, for about 10 minutes or so.
  4. Now add the pasta, sage and red pepper flakes. Let it cook for about 5 minutes and then add the chard. Give it a good stir, put the lid on and let it cook for another 5 minutes. That should do it.
  5. Check for salt and pepper and enjoy!

“Home Is Wherever I’m With You”

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And just like that, I’m done.

My aneurysm has been, according to my neurosurgeon, perfectly clipped and I’m well on my way to recovery.

Yay!

Okay, I look like hell. My left eye is all bruised, but that happens with brain surgery. And I get wiped out pretty easily, but that also happens with brain surgery, too.

And I don’t feel all that bad. Considering that I had major surgery three days ago (Wednesday was three days ago, right?), I’m doing okay. I bought beautiful yarn and picked out a gorgeous pattern for me to work on while I’m getting better. I make no promises; I will probably fall asleep somewhere in the middle of it (more than likely while I’m turning the heel) and I’ll be taking extra strength Tylenol for the next couple of weeks, too.

Yes, I do have the good drugs. Ahem.

Well, I won’t take them while I’m knitting, or that heel’s going to end up looking like a…well, not a heel, okay?  Probably not a great idea to do any knitting under the influence of Percocet.

Definitely not a good idea. Ahem.

So, time for tea and sock knitting and some Villanova University men’s hoops.

And probably a nap.

“Mind Your Own Biscuits And Life Will Be Gravy”

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So one week from today I’ll be in my hospital bed at Temple University Hospital, recovering from my aneurysm clipping surgery. And, touching wood and turning around three times and spitting for good luck, I may even be back home by now. Hopefully this will be my last big surgery for a very, very long time, if not forever.

Since this really is brain surgery, I’m going to be hanging around the house for quite awhile. The Brain Guy said recovery time for a craniotomy is about a month and that I should be taking it easy for at least that, if not longer. If you’re a regular reader of this little blog o’ mine, you already know “me” and “taking it easy” don’t really belong in the same sentence. I adore a really good afternoon nap and there’s not too much I love more than hanging around the house in a flannel shirt and some yoga pants, but I’m an antsy little thing.

So I thought (ha!) it would be a fine idea to pull out some of the knitting I put aside when I started learning how to tote up debits and credits back in September. It seems that I’ve got half of one sock done, another sock that needs its mate, a fingerless mitt that needs its partner as well as its thumb, a ridiculous amount of yarn for two sweaters and a duster as well as a pullover I started in June with high hopes of wearing it in, umm, October.

Which was two months ago. Hey, yarn doesn’t go bad.

And it was in that spirit that I decided (ha!) I needed two more projects to keep me amused while my noggin’s healing. I’ve been doing a fair amount of yapping about crocheting and knitting afghans for awhile now, so I figured it would be a good time to put up or shut up and get started, already.

My other justification for buying more yarn…I mean, starting two new projects is this: I need simple stuff to work on. None of my current projects really qualify as “simple”. I love the complicated cables and colorwork and little tiny DPNs and skinny sock yarn. I mean, love. In reality, what I’m really going to need are things that I don’t really have to think about too much.

So here’s the crocheted afghan pattern and it’s a beauty. I’m using Berroco Vintage worsted in all the colors since I think I’m going for a millefiore inspiration with this. I have a vague memory of someone in my family collecting millefiore paperweights when I was a kid and I was fascinated with them. This is going to be for our queen-sized bed and each triangle motif is about six inches across, so I’m going to need a whole boatload of these. I have no idea how many exactly or what colors I’ll be using yet. I’m making this up as I go along.

Why, no, I haven’t really thought about putting them all together yet. One challenge at a time, ‘kay?

And here’s the knitted afghan project for the couch. In my knitting world, this qualifies as “simple” because that sucker’s 20 pattern repeats across. I can live with a few “purl through the back loop” every fifteen rows or so, even though those words usually make me twitch.

I’m also going to get some special, luxe yarn to take with to the hospital with me so I can start a pair of very simple socks. If the yarn is beautiful, you don’t need to do much with it to bring out the best in it. I’m going to be recovering from big, icky surgery and I have every intention of being very, very, good to myself.


 

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Pass the butter, please.

So here’s something I’ve been making for ages. They’re from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time (“Moosewood Restaurant New Classics“). They’re great with a bowl of soup or stew and the kitchens smells like heaven while they’re in the oven. The only drawback with these beauties? They’re scones, so they only last for one day. That problem is easily solved, though. Just eat two.

Rosemary Garlic Scones 

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (you can use 1/2 tsp of dried, but they’re so, so much better if you use the fresh)
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil it.
  2. In a small skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil. Add the garlic, pepper and rosemary. Simmer for about 1 minute (do not let the garlic burn) and remove from the heat.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers (which is what I do), quickly cut the butter into the flour until it’s evenly distributed. Add the seasoned oil mixture and mix well. Quickly stir in the buttermilk to form a a soft (but sticky) dough.
  4. On a lightly floured board, lightly knead the dough so it holds together. Lightly pat it into a 6″ circle and cut it into 6 wedges. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the tops of the scones with the remaining 1/2 tsp of olive oil. I always forget this step.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the scones are golden brown. Don’t over bake these suckers or they’ll be dense and dry.
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

 

“C Is For Cookie And That’s Good Enough For Me”

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Every once in awhile, I get obsessed with something.

It might be a particular kind of yarn (no surprise there, I’m sure), the perfect crocheted afghan pattern (which I’ve finally found) or an old cookbook I remember from the 1980’s. And I have to be careful since I’ve got the kind of personality that doesn’t let go of things like this easily. I know all too well what happens; I fall down into the rabbit hole of the Intertubes, never to been seen or heard from again.

This time it was a cookie. A chocolate chip cookie to be exact, and it was a recipe that my mom made for Christmas when I was in the fifth or sixth grade. They weren’t the typical, thin, crisp cookie, either. These were thicker, a little lumpy looking, and she used the mini-chocolate chips instead of the usual Nestle suspects. She stored them in those old-fashioned cookie tins and they were hidden in the coat closet in the basement. Of course I found them when I was poking around looking for my gifts.

I hope she’s not reading this.

Anyway, they were delicious. They weren’t Toll House cookies, they was something a little different going on there. To this day, I don’t know what recipe she used and every time I see a recipe for chocolate chip cookies I’m absolutely compelled to see if it might, just might, be The One I’ve been looking for. I still haven’t found it, but you can be sure I’m still searching for them.

cookies

Nom nom nom.

In the meantime though, I made these a few weekends ago. This is one of those recipes that I’d been looking at for years, always saying, “You know, I have to make these.” There is a lot going on here that’s different. There’s whole wheat pastry flour along with regular white flour and dark brown sugar instead of the usual mix of white and light brown. And they’re not thin and crisp; they’re thick and hefty and a little bit chewy. If you like a soft-baked cookie, you’ll go nuts over these.


 

Big  Chocolate Chip  Cookies 

 

  • ¾ cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts and/or raisins (I didn’t)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs until well blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
  4. Stir in the flour into the butter mixture, mixing well. Add the vanilla and the water and stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Add the nuts and raisins if you’re using.
  6. Drop the batter by ¼ cup measures onto the baking sheet (this will make 3” cookies), leaving about 2” in between each.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes, but check them around 8 minutes in. When they’re done, let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then put them on a cooling rack to finish.
  8. Enjoy! These are really, really good.