Christmas Countdown – Spicing Up Your Holiday Basket

As I write this post, Christmas is but 154 days away. By the time I finish and get everything nicely posted, it will be in the neighborhood of 146 days away – four months and counting. Wow – those days will fly by quickly!

We’ve had a lot of changes in our life recently. You know the old saying when a door closes, a window opens. It is with this uplifting perspective that I gaze through a new window into our life.

So what does all this reflecting have to do with Christmas? With change comes an adjustment of attitude – we aren’t going to be passing out store-bought presents neatly wrapped in pretty paper and tied up with holiday bows. This year, with time on my hands, I will be making our gifts.

As someone who loves to prepare wonderful home-cooked meals, I thought I would give gifts from my heart and my kitchen. This will allow me to be a part of my family’s lives even when I am not there.

This first post is going to deal with making seasoning blends for our two favorite types of cooking – Italian and Mexican. I’ve increased the ingredients in each recipe to make ample blends as gifts for my extending family and friends. Whenever possible, a link to the original source has been included. If nothing else, I hope these ideas will get your creative, gift-giving juices flowing!

Note: Spice Jars in a variety of sizes can be had at places such as World Market. This would also be a great place to shop for labels, gift baskets and other whimsical ways to wrap and give your creations.


 * * * Italian * * *

Italian Herb Blend
1/4 Cup Basil
1/4 Cup Marjoram
1/4 Cup Oregano
1/4 Cup Rosemary
1/4 Cup Thyme

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, until well combined.

For a finer consistency, once dry spices are mixed, pulse everything in a spice grinder or coffee grinder to desired grind. If you do not have a grinder, use a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon or drinking glass.

Funnel seasoning into spice jars (can be had at World Market). Be sure to label the jar, so you don’t mix it up with another spice blend. (A good suggestion would be Italian Herb Blend – this is purely an Herb blend without additional spices).

Seasoning can be used immediately as needed or store it in an air-tight container for up to 6 months. The recipe will yield 1 1/4 cups seasoning – plenty to fill your 3 oz gifting spice jars.

Original Recipe: https://www.thebalance.com/homemade-italian-seasoning-recipe-4144351)

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Italian Seasoning Blend
1/4 Cup Garlic Powder
1/4 Cup Onion Powder
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Parsley
1/4 Cup Salt
1 1/3 Tablespoons Black Pepper
1 1/3 Tablespoons Basil
1 Teaspoon Thyme

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, until well combined.

For a finer consistency, once dry spices are mixed, pulse everything in a spice grinder or coffee grinder to desired grind. If you do not have a grinder, use a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon or drinking glass.

Funnel seasoning into spice jars (can be had at World Market). Be sure to label the jar, so you don’t mix it up with another spice blend. (A suggestion would be Garlic and Onion Italian Seasoning Blend – in reference to the garlic and onion and as a reminder to taste whatever is seasoned before adding additional garlic or onion).

Seasoning can be used immediately as needed or store it in an air-tight container for up to 6 months. This recipe will yield just over 1 1/4 cups of seasoning.

Since this recipe includes sugar, be sure to store in a dry place to prevent seasoning from becoming clumpy.

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Savory Italian Herb Blend
1/4 Cup Marjoram
1/4 Cup Basil
1/4 Cup Thyme
1/4 Cup Oregano
1/4 Cup Sage
2 1/2 Tablespoons Savory

A quick word on Savory – this is a herb has an aromatic thyme-like flavor with a peppery bite.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, until well combined.

For a finer consistency, once dry spices are mixed, pulse everything in a spice grinder or coffee grinder to desired grind. If you do not have a grinder, use a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon or drinking glass.

Funnel seasoning into spice jars (can be had at World Market). Be sure to label the jar, so you don’t mix it up with another spice blend. (A suggestion would be Savory Italian Herb Blend an indication that savory is used in the recipe ).

Seasoning can be used immediately as needed or store it in an air-tight container for up to 6 months. This recipe will yield just over 1 1/4 cups of seasoning.

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Italian Seasoning and Dressing Mix
Dry Italian Mix
1/4 Cup Garlic Powder
1/4 Cup Onion Powder
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Oregano
1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Basil
1 Teaspoon Ground Thyme
1/4 Cup Parsley
1 Teaspoon Celery Salt
1/4 Cup Salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, until well combined. Since this blend will be used to make a wonderful Italian dressing for salads or as a marinade, you will want to keep the herbs and spices in their original size rather than to grind down into a finer mix.

Funnel seasoning into spice jars (can be had at World Market). Be sure to label the jar, so you don’t mix it up with another spice blend. (A suggestion would be Italian Seasoning and Dressing Mix – in reference to the use as a seasoning in recipes, for dressings and marinades to add Italian flavoring).

Seasoning can be used immediately as needed or store it in an air-tight container for up to 6 months. This recipe will yield just over 1 1/2 cups of seasoning.

Italian Dressing and Marinade
2 Tablespoons Dry Mix (above)
¼ cup Cider Vinegar
⅔ cup Oil
2 Tablespoons Water

To make dressing, combine ingredients in a bottle and shake well. If making ahead of time, give the dressing a good shake before using. Store in the refrigerator as you would any salad dressing.

(Original Recipe: http://simplyshellie.com/recipe-homemade-italian-seasoning)

Note: A nice touch to the whole gift-giving concept would be to include a small mason jar for the dressing with instructions tucked inside.

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Savory Italian Red Pepper Blend
1/4 Cup Basil
1/4 Cup Oregano
1/4 Cup Rosemary
1/4 Cup Marjoram
1/4 Cup Cilantro
1/4 Cup Thyme
1/4 Cup Savory
1/4 Cup Red Pepper flakes

Place in a food process, blend for 1 minute or until desired consistency is reached.
Store in an airtight container or spice jar

Funnel seasoning into spice jars (can be had at World Market). Be sure to label the jar, so you don’t mix it up with another spice blend. (A suggestion would be Savory Italian Red Pepper Blend – in reference to the use of Red Pepper and Savory – both bringing just a little Peppery Heat to the mixture).

Seasoning can be used immediately as needed or store it in an air-tight container for up to 6 months. This recipe will yield 2 cups of seasoning. More than enough to share with all your friends and plenty more just for you.

(Original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/34450/italian-seasoning-i/)


 * * * Mexican * * *

Before sharing the two recipes for Mexican Spice that I use (these have been increased from the originals for gift-giving purposes) let me first mention that the recipes I reach for most share an original source – the Frugal Hausfrau. She has an amazing collection of recipes, ideas and helpful advise all designed to aid the home cook to elevate the quality of our dishes up while keeping the cost of cooking down. Please check her out: https://frugalhausfrau.com/

Taco Seasoning Mix
2 Tablespoons Onion Powder
2 Tablespoons Chile Powder
2 Tablespoons Cumin
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
2 Tablespoons Paprika
2 Tablespoons Sugar (optional)
2 Tablespoons Arrow Root (as a thickening agent – can also use cornstarch)
2 Teaspoons Cayenne
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 Teaspoon Mexican Oregano

Mix the ingredients together. Makes about 1 cup of taco seasoning.

To use as you would a taco seasoning packet, 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons for each pound of ground meat will just about equal a store-bought seasoning packet.

For Tacos: Brown ground meat in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat as it cook. Remove meat from skillet to drain off excessive grease.

Measure needed seasoning into the skillet and allow to toast for about 30 seconds. Return meat to skillet, mix well and let the seasoning flavor the meat for about a minute. Add 1/2 cup of water or stock and let simmer until desired consistency is reached.

(Original Recipe: https://frugalhausfrau.com/2015/02/04/taco-seasoning-homemade/)

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Chipotle Taco Seasoning
2 tablespoons Onion flakes
2 tablespoons Garlic powder
2 tablespoons basic Chile powder
2 tablespoons Chipotle Chile powder
2 tablespoons Cumin
2 tablespoons Smoked paprika
2 Tablespoons Sugar (optional)
2 Tablespoons Arrow Root (as a thickening agent – can also use cornstarch)
2 Teaspoons Cayenne
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 Teaspoon Mexican Oregano

This brings a little more zip to the basic taco mix with the addition of Chipotle Powder and Smoked Paprika, giving a spicy-smoky flavor to the seasoning mix.

Mix the ingredients together. Makes about 1 cup of taco seasoning.

To use as you would a taco seasoning packet, 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons for each pound of ground meat will just about equal a store-bought seasoning packet.

For Tacos: Brown ground meat in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat as it cook. Remove meat from skillet to drain off excessive grease.

Measure needed seasoning into the skillet and allow to toast for about 30 seconds. Return meat to skillet, mix well and let the seasoning flavor the meat for about a minute. Add 1/2 cup of water or stock and let simmer until desired consistency is reached.

(Original Recipe: https://frugalhausfrau.com/2017/03/14/smokin-chipotle-taco-seasoning/)

Almost Like Home Made

sacramento-weir-opens-for-first-time-in-decadeWe have had our share of rain lately. And I do mean rain – as in roads closed, flood gates opened – some for the first time in a decade. As a result, planning a hardy meal and getting the timing right is almost impossible. The beauty of canned soups are that you can stock up for these crazy-rainy days and everyone gets their soup-fix on, even when we are all craving something different. Oh so convenient! I know, home-made soup isn’t difficult. When made in a crock pot the soup just sits there waiting, becoming more intense and delicious as each hour of the clock ticks away. The down-side of home-made soup is that I haven’t learned how to make a single serving. It’s a giant pot that can feed us for days . . . and days. While canned soup offers variety in a single serving.

Hubby had a hankering for Baked Potato Soup. Kiddo was in the mood for Tomato Soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, while I had my heart set on a big bowl of Cream of Mushroom Soup. Canned soup to the rescue! With a few added ingredients; off the shelf soup can become your best friend.

To make Potato Soup even better, fry up some bacon to add to your soup. Don’t forget to garnish with a handful of green onions.

For that “from scratch” goodness for your tomato soup, fire-roasted tomatoes will do the trick. Just add to the pot while the sandwiches are grilling.

And for a nutty twist to a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, reduce the milk to 2/3 of a can, then garnish your soup with chopped walnuts.

Keep warm and enjoy!

How to be a Good Guest this Thanksgiving – REALLY?

It’s getting to be that time of the year – when being a good guest counts for something.

Rosemarie's Kitchen

This morning, while wandering about the internet; with the morning news on the TV for a little background noise, it came to my attention via Social Media and a fluff news piece that we now need to be instructed in how to behave as a dinner guest. To say that this “news flash” blows my mind is an understatement. So much of what was out there on the subject is common sense and good manners. I shutter to think what we have become that social media and the news needs to instruct us in proper behavior.

  • RSVP. While the importance of an RSVP wasn’t covered directly (yes, no, and how many), the need to respond was touched upon in a strange, indirect way. A good guest alerts their host of any dietary restriction well in advance so that the menu can be planned accordingly. Things such as gluten-Free preferences; vegan dietary needs or food allergies should be…

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Food for Thought

I know, this is a food blog – but every now and again, I don’t feel like sharing a recipe so much as I feel the desire to pour us a cup of coffee and chat about life. This is one of those mornings.

Growing up, Dad inspired his children to think and to learn about the world around us. Many a weekend was spent piled in the family station wagon, traveling the back roads of California, exploring all the little mining towns and soaking in the rich history. The past is very much a part of who I am as a person.

Image result for images old sacramentoBy the time I got to high school, hanging out with a few close friends in what is now “Old Sacramento” was a great thing to do. I don’t mean we would hang out smoking cigarettes and drinking beer (although that was a very real possibility). Back then, the river front that now makes up Old Sacramento was a chunk of real estate two-blocks deep and about fifteen-blocks long. The buildings were closed up, but not locked up. It was easy to slip into an abandoned warehouse or water-front hotel. What we knew as the river front was actually an abandoned part of town built on top of another abandoned part of town. Way back when, the Sacramento and American rivers flooded this area almost every winter. The solution was to build on top of what was already there, raising the streeImage result for images old sacramentots to the second floor and burying the past in a catacomb of an older city. By exploring the “new” old section of the city, one could gain access to the hidden past below. Today Old Sacramento is a thriving tourist attraction of trendy restaurants woven among T-Shirt shops and Tattoo Parlors. Guess that’s what is known as progress, and I can live with that.

There is another part of the past that makes me sad. We like to go to street fairs featuring antiques. So often, tucked in among the crystal and silver, are boxes of old photographs. Who are these people? What became of them? More importantly, what became of their families? Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Shouldn’t someone cherish the wedding photos or turn of the century young men marching off to war? Why are these ghosts of the past piled in crates for strangers to sort through? I have boxes in my attic with tattered photo albums of people who I have never met, but they mean something to me. This is my past – my personal connection to yesterday. It’s sad to see roots abandoned, cast aside and forgotten.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say . . .

Sunday Night Green Bay Packers took the field. That meant grilling up bratwurst with caramelized onions while listening to my crazy husband scream at the TV set. I truly don’t understand how getting so worked up that the veins in your neck look like they are about to explode can be considered relaxing. I guess it’s a guy thing.

Back in January 2015, I shared my take on Bratwurst in beer. Ever since then, whenever I cook up Bratwurst in beer; I feel just a little bit hurt. There was a comment on my posting I had not expected. Someone made the comment that said I was WRONG and proceeded to provide a link from my post to theirs, the correct way to cook up bratwurst. It hurt my feelings.  I didn’t delete the comment. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Yet it still hurt.

First of all, there is no such thing as a wrong way to cook something. The way one person makes a salad might not be how you make a salad, but that does not make their salad wrong. Just different. I’ve had people say “great post. I like mine with (whatever)” to which I often reply “great idea, I’ll have to try that next time”. Those are exchanges with respect for one another.

Being constructive is also different. Say I was baking bread and the bread turned out as hard as a rock. I might share the experience and ask for advise. That’s fine. I need help. However; I would expect any responses to be next time try this or this is what works for me. (When I complained about cutting butter into flour for biscuits, it was suggested that I use a food processor fitted with a blade – that’s advise – and it was appreciated).

There are recipes and postings for beets and Brussels sprouts and all sorts of things that I personally would never eat. I don’t like beets or Brussels sprouts. Still, I’ll read the post and in the end “like” it. No comments such as “Yuck!”. Why like the post if i don’t like the dish? Because someone took the time to share something they like. It might be well written or beautifully photographed or mean something to them and their family. Maybe it’s mom’s recipe or grandma’s or Uncle Ned’s – it doesn’t matter. Realize it or not, every recipe, every photograph or story or whatever is a little piece of someone brave enough to open up and share. That alone should be admired, appreciated and respected.

I’ve decided to re-post the recipe to reclaim it. This is MY recipe for Bratwurst – Hubby loves it, Kiddo loves it and I enjoy it. If you don’t like it, fine, don’t make it but don’t tell me something my family enjoys is WRONG.

BratwurstBratwurst in Beer with Grilled Onions
1 Package Johnsonville Bratwurst
1 Onion, sliced
1 Bottle of Beer – enough to cover Bratwurst (1 bottle of is enough for 1 package of 5 bratwurst)
1 Package Sandwich Rolls

Pierce Bratwurst to allow fat to drain and beer to soak into meat. (A thin fork, cocktail pick or cake-tester works fine – remember, you want the fat to seep out, the beer to soak in and the bratwurst to retain its flavorful juiciness).

Place Bratwurst in a large pot. Cover with beer let Bratwurst soak in beer for about 45 minutes.
While bratwurst are soaking, thinly slice onions. If desired, place a few sliced onions into the pot with the bratwurst, reserving the majority of the onion for “grilling” in a pan.

Saute onions with a little butter over medium-low heat until golden, about 20-30 minutes.

Heat a gas grill for about 10 minutes or so to get it good and hot. Turn heat on under pot of soaking bratwurst to low and let simmer while grill heats.

Remove bratwurst from liquid. Grill to sear outside, turning as needed, about 5 to 6 minutes per side.

Spread mustard or favorite condiment onto bun. Top with bratwurst and onion.
Serve with French Fries or warm German Potato Salad

Let Bratwurst soak in beer for about 45 minutes. Turn on the heat, then let them simmer for about 10 minutes prior to grilling

Slice one onion. If desired, toss a few onion slices into pot with soaking bratwurst. Set aside until ready to grill in a pan. About 35 minutes into bratwurst soak, begin grilling onion.

Add a little butter or margarine to the pan, grill onions over medium-low heat until nicely browned, about 20 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.

Remove bratwurst from beer after about 45 minutes. Place on a hot grill to finish. Grill bratwurst about 5 minutes per side, just enough to get the outer skin to char a little and blister.

While bratwurst finish on the grill, remove onions from heat and set aside until ready to use.

Place grilled bratwurst on bun smeared with desired condiment (mustard or deli style brown mustard are excellent choices). Add grilled onions, serve and enjoy.

And Now a Moment of Silence

Today’s scheduled post – Crock Pot Spaghetti Family Style – has been postponed. There was something oddly “wrong” about posting a family style recipe and brushing aside the significance of this day. Fifteen years – that’s a long time, and our country has yet to fully heal. The wounds are deep. For some anger is even deeper. Something happens when an entire nation drops to their knees and weeps, forever strip of our sense of innocence.

There are national events that happen and you are forever changed as a person – be it for the better or worse, something inside you is changes. Anyone alive today can tell you exactly where they were and how the news of Pearl Harbor hit them. I can recall the death of JFK; and in clear detail September 11, 2001.

Hubby was getting ready to leave for work. I was getting ready for my day – take Kiddo to school, followed by a routine Doctor’s appointment, the lunch with friends. The phone rang – it was our daughter. Did we have the television on? No. Turn it on. What channel? Any channel. We are under attack. What? I hung up and turned on the TV, sure she was exaggerating. She tends to become dramatic at times. Oh my God! The remote tumbled from my hand, crashing on the tile floor of our bedroom. Hubby heard the commotion and came to see – silently he  picked up the remote, never taking his eyes off the television set. He joined me and we sat together on the edge of the bed, unable to speak.

Two more phone calls – the first to my Dad. Had he spoken to his brother? My cousin’s son worked at the Pentagon. No. My uncle had not been able to get through to reach his daughter in Washington. (It turned out Brian’s office, one of those hit, had been recently painted and he had yet to move back to his office – a move that was scheduled a few days later). The second call was to our good friend, a Las Vegas transplant from Buffalo, New York. His mother flying in for a visit. Whenever his mother came to visit, we would go to Mass together and pretend it was something we did every Sunday. Our friend did not want his mother (a nice Italian lady with dreams of her son becoming a Priest one day) to know that not only did he marry a girl outside the faith, he no longer attended Mass. All our friend could tell us was that his elderly mother was in the air somewhere between Buffalo and Las Vegas. (She was grounded, and eventually put on a bus to reach her final destination). I wanted to make a few more calls, to friends in New York, but I knew such attempts would be futile at this point.

Business out-of-the-way, it was time to let emotions take over. My heart ached so badly, a pain so deep that I collapsed under the weight of it. I felt God was weeping and there was nothing I could do to comfort my Lord. This horrific thing had been carried out in His name – can you imagine how much that hurt? His children so misguided; they were slaughtering one another in record numbers in His name. Even now, fifteen years later, I weep whenever I think about how much we hurt our Creator on September 11, 2001.

I kept Kiddo home from school, needing to feel him close to me. After my doctor’s appointment, Kiddo and I went down to the Strip – to the New York-New York Hotel. Don’t ask me why, we just did. I had to get away from the images on the television. I had the need to go where people might gather. We weren’t alone. Already flowers lined the street in front of the hotel. From the fence hung shirts and notes and ribbons. The T-shirts were placed there by firefighters and police officers on vacation in Las Vegas, some of them from New York. These firefighters and officers found themselves unable to get home yet needed to show their support for their brothers and sisters in the line of duty in New York. Strangers hugged one another, silently placing objects along the fence and openly weeping. By late afternoon the crowds that gathered were so great, traffic actually stopped on the strip and had to be detoured around the hotel.

They say churches and places of worship saw attendance in record numbers immediately after. People were seeking answers and longing for comfort. Eventually those that did not normally attend a place of worship returned to their normal routines. That too is sad.

I am sure there will be plenty of footage today of the death and the destruction. The scab will be picked on once again. I want to take a moment of silence and then to pray.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hollowed by thy name . . .

Fathers and Daughters – A Tribute to My Dad

When I was a little girl, my Dad would sometimes just show up at school. The bell to dismiss class would ring, and there he’d be, standing out on the sidewalk waiting for me. The family wagon was packed with sandwiches; cold drinks and a couple of fishing poles. We’d stop along the river to get some worms (in the sleepy little town of Freeport). At the edge of town stood an iron bridge all painted green. Up, over the railroad tracks and across the river we went, turning due west, toward the coast. To this day, whenever Hubby and I have an occasion to cross that bridge, my heart skips a beat.

When it came time to fish, Dad would always bait my hook – not that I didn’t like worms, I did. I just could not bring myself to stick the slimy little suckers on the end of a hook. There were times when we’d find a spot wide enough along side the levee road to pull off and park. Then down we went, trampling through the brush, to sit on the bank and fish. That was back in the old days – when the rivers and sloughs and all the little outlets were free to fish from. Now if you take a ride along those same river roads, there are signs posted everywhere of “Private Property” and “Keep Out”. So sad. I’ve never been able to figure out how people living on one side of the levee road could own the rights to the river banks on the other side of the road. Maybe they always did, but back then no one cared if you fished the rivers.

catfishsmall fishing boatMore often than not, we’d catch a whole string of catfish. We are talking those “cat” looking catfish – with the rubbery skins instead of fish-scales and long cat-like whiskers.  I liked to touch them, only because they felt strange. Sometimes Dad would rent a boat in Freeport. Nothing fancy – a row-boat with a couple of benches and little outboard motor. The best part about the boat was that it gave us the ability to reach wild berry bushes growing along the banks of the rivers and sloughs that could not be reached from the shore. Dad and I would pick berries – so plump and sweet. Those were magical times.

We’d get home about the time the sun was setting. Mom always gave Dad a good scolding since she had worried about me all afternoon. Then Dad would show her our catch and the big bucket of berries. She would flash him a look that said “you made me worry over nothing.” and send Dad out to the garage sink to skin the fish. Mom would then smile and ask if I had a nice time. It was magical!

Once the fish were skinned and filletted, Mom would dredge them in cornmeal and fried up nice and golden. I don’t remember what we had on the side – but I’d be willing to bet it was rice of some sort. After all, Mom was Filipino – growing up with an Okie Dad and Filipino Mom, we ate a lot of rice and everything was smothered in gravy!

With all these lovely memories floating through my head, imagine my surprise when I invited Dad to a down home fish-fry and he said he didn’t like fish! But Dad – what about our outings when I was a little girl? He just smiled and said that was our special time.

Fathers are special. As daughters our first “love” is Dad – the yardstick by which all other men are measured.

Mashed Potato Sucess

For those of you on Face Book, then you know how FB will show you something you’ve posted from the past and ask you if you want to share it again. Most of those I’ve seen shared by family are photos and cute stories. Nearly all my “memories” are recipes and cooking tips – some long before my blogging days. (The biggest reason I started blogging in the first place was because my personal Face Book account was so full of recipes and tips). This is one that  popped up today, and I thought I’d pass it along . . . good advise.

Way back in the day of Cook Books with entire sections dedicated to household tips and advise for the “little woman”, there were a good many tips that you simply don’t find in today’s cook books. For the woman (or man) of today, you need to read these books with an open mind, as some of the things simply do not apply – such as how to fetch your husband’s slippers and pipe – if you can believe that! And oh my goodness, make sure your makeup is fresh and you greet your husband with a smile, his favorite cocktail in hand.

The key to a good mashed potato begins at the market – selecting the variety.  While there are a lot of potatoes to pick from, here are tips for the most common and their usage:

Yukon Gold
Yukon gold potatoes are the result of crossbreeding a North American white potato with a wild South American yellow-fleshed variety.
-Originated in Canada and made its way to the U.S. in the early 1980s.
-Waxy, pale, yellow flesh with firm texture.
-Great for roasting and frying, and works well in soups, stews, and gratins.

White Potatoes
-Smooth, light-tan skin with medium starch level.
-Dense, creamy in texture, and holds its shape well after cooking.
-All-purpose potato: Great for roasting, baking, steaming, and boiling.

Red Potatoes
-Red, rosy skin, but can have white, yellow, or even red flesh.
-Firm, smooth, moist texture.
-Are well-suited for salads, roasting, boiling, and steaming.
-Smaller reds are referred to as “new potatoes,” meaning they’re harvested before reaching maturity.

Russet Potatoes
-Most widely used variety in the United States.
-Characterized by netted brown skin and white flesh.
-High starch content and fluffy interior makes them ideal for baking, mashing, and making french fries.

Russet Potatoes make the best mashed potatoes. The higher the starch content; the fluffier the mashed potatoes. (Although I will admit, I like reds or whites, too).

There are a 3 basic steps to mashed potato success, regardless of recipe directions.

1. Salt the water. Place enough salted water in the pan to cover the potatoes, there’s no need to drowned them. Let the potatoes and water come to temperature together.

2. After draining potatoes, return to pan and “dry” potatoes over medium heat until cooking liquid has evaporated. Dry potatoes mash cleaner than wet-ones. Besides, the extra water only dilutes the wonderful flavor of the smashed studs.

3. Heat milk, cream, butter or whatever else you are adding to potatoes before combining them. Pouring cold milk or adding cold butter will cool the potatoes as well. Unless your recipe calls for big plate of cold mashed potatoes, it’s never a good idea.

mashed potatoes

On the Road Again

July is a slow time in the event business. June weddings and graduations are behind us. It’s far too hot for people to think beyond a back yard barbecue and floating down a lazy river. Everything comes to a melting, withering, wilting halt. It’s also the perfect time for Kiddo, Hubby and I to take to the open road – head for parts unknown or revisit familiar trails once forgotten.

As we plan our great escape, pack up the car and head off to secret destinations, I thought this would be a great time to share some recipes from the past. Perhaps to reflect and relax a bit. While I might not manage a posting everyday, I’ll do my best to catch up with you all at the end of our journey.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful summer. Run through the sprinklers. Enjoy a Popsicle. Chase the grandchildren. Take up a new hobby. Whatever gives you great joy!

A Tribute to my Beautiful Mom on Mother’s Day

My mom wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. At least not for me. The last conversation we had, I brushed her off. She wanted to go to lunch and spend the day together. After all, it was my birthday. It was also a work day. “Playing hookie” as she put it was not something I was willing to do. I wasn’t sick, and I wasn’t about to call in sick just to spend the day with her. “Some other time, mom. I have to work today.” I could hear the disappointment in her voice. She had called bubbling over with excitement and hung up hurt. Two weeks later, Mom died in her sleep. For us, “some other time” never came.

The last Mother’s Day card from me to her was a doctor holding a baby up-side-down in the delivery room, and the woman had a strange look on her face. The outside of the card read “Look lady, I just delivery them.” Inside the card read “I don’t explain them.” That card pretty well summed up our relationship.

For a rebellious, system-fighting woman who refused to be shoved into some sort of a box that did not fit her free-spirited nature, you would have thought the bond between her and her equally rebellious flower-child of a daughter would have been strong. It wasn’t. Don’t misunderstand me, we had a deep love for one another. We just seemed to bump heads at every turn. As a teenager; I did not understand why she so often tried to shove me into that same “box” she had rejected for herself. Looking back now; I think I understand better. Mom was ahead of her time. The forties and fifties were not a time for women to challenge their roles in society. Mom’s refusal to accept the dutiful role imposed upon her by others brought about a great deal of struggle and heartache. She wanted to spare me; to protect me from the same pain. My march to a different drum was during a time when women were throwing their aprons out the window, a time when attending college wasn’t a means to “snag a good husband”.

What can I tell you about my mother? Second to the youngest of 16 children; she was educated in a private Catholic School.

1935 del Gallego Family

Mom is seated on her father’s lap.

Mom was a rebel. She challenged the Nuns, the Priests and just about anyone of authority. At Sunday Mass, the men gathered outside the church, smoking cigarettes and talking politics, while the women and children sat inside the church, listening to the sermon of the day. Mom argued with her mother and older sisters, not understanding why she could not be outside with her brothers. It seemed wrong that she could not be a part of the more interesting conversations simply because she was a girl. At school, Mom was equally disruptive. Always running late, Mom was known to roller skate from class to class until the Nuns took away her “wheels”.

Her older brothers held positions of high authority within the government of the Philippines. This afforded Mom with the opportunity to raise a little hell of her own. When she was twelve; she took her brother’s official car (with high ranking government plates) out for a joy-ride. She could barely see over the steering wheel of the car as she barreled through the street of Manila. The police, seeing the plates, did nothing to stop her. I can just imagine my mom; with a carload of Catholic-School escapees, out for a day of fun with no one standing in their way.

images (17)I wanted June Cleaver as a mom. What images (16)I got was Lucy with a Filipino accent. One thing was certain; life with Mom was never dull.

She was wacky, wild with all sorts of “screwball” ideas. Mom didn’t color outside the lines, she scribbled – big, wide deliberate colors as far outside the box as she could reach. I shall miss her always.

Wishing Mothers everywhere a wonderful Mother’s Day. 

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