Archive for November, 2009

Weekend Wrapup…pie verdict, flicks and red beans and rice…
November 30, 2009

My dough..made with my Grandmother's rolling pin!

Let’s see, let’s see….let us begin with the pie. You know…the apple pie I made from scratch…homemade crust and all( made with a rolling pin hand-carved by my great-grandfather for my grandmother as a wedding gift…so sweet). That sucker was kind of an all day affair. Apple pie is just…..laborious…I don’t know any other word for it. Peeling the apples, coring the apples, slicing the apples, mixing the dough, chilling the dough, rolling out the dough, rechilling the dough, don’t forget to put foil on the edges, make sure the pie is toward the bottom of the oven. Bottom line…it was a very nice pie(should be with two sticks of butter in the crust….Martha recipe), but it wasn’t good enough that I want to go through all that again. Seriously, I could have easily bought an apple pie that good, and enjoyed my day more. The nice gentleman who sat by me at Thanksgiving dinner  judged it for me….he said, “It’s pretty good but I kind of had to scoop it out, so it doesn’t look so good.” Or something like that. I didn’t hit him or even consider it….I graciously agreed, and silently made a pact with myself to never do that again. That was my last from scratch apple pie.

Caught a couple of good films over the weekend….The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock is a winner…hands down, one of the best films I’ve seen in a while. And knowing the story of Michael Oher of the Ravens, made me admire him even more. See it if you had a chance. Also enjoyed Coco Before Chanel playing at the Charles Theatre. Oh so very French, very subtitled, lots of cigarette smoking, alors!! Interesting story about the woman who brought us the LBD(little black dress) and Chanel No. 5,  and the idea that clothing should be comfortable….bye-bye corsets. The film conveniently leaves out Coco’s affair with a German officer during WWII and the German occupation of France(it doesn’t really go that far timewise). Some say she was a collaborator, but she was never charged as one. Did Winston Churchill work behind the scenes in her behalf? Who knows, but she left Paris for Switzerland, as people didn’t feel so kindly towards her. Oh, Coco.

Also made some kicking Red Beans and Rice….made with real Camellia Red Beans, which people from Louisiana say are basic to the real thing(though I’ve used plain old kidney beans to pretty good effect). It’s a classic, that once you’ve made it, you really don’t need a recipe for…I just saute a couple of red and green peppers, lots of onion and garlic…put in a couple of ham hocks, bay leaves, Tabasco and your soaked red beans. Cover with water and simmer away. When the beans are tender, add some sautéed smoked sausage, or andouille  if you’re feeling authentic. Let it cook a little longer, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve over rice. Yummo.

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Towson High???? Big Thanksgiving oops on NBC…..
November 26, 2009

OMG......

Just watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC…and we had a story on 11 News at Five yesterday about how Towson University was the only university band marching in the parade this year. Big honor…a big deal for Towson U…and they were super, if you caught them. But if you weren’t listening carefully, you thought it was another high school band…..I caught the graphic boo-boo on camera so you could see it. THEY CALLED THEM TOWSON HIGH SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can imagine the guy doing the graphics for all these many groups and floats coming through…..and saw Towson University on the list and thought(or didn’t think)..”Hmmm, they must mean Towson High School..haven’t seen any other university bands soooooo…I won’t ask anyone, I’ll just make an executive decision.”  Or something like that. At least Matt Lauer SAID Towson University…but still….come on guys.

Those apples won't peel themselves....

Hats off to a stellar job in spite of the misnaming….you guys rocked it, Towson style!! Happy Thanksgiving everyone….got to go make an apple pie!!!

Thanksgiving Karma…..
November 25, 2009

It's not Thanksgiving without a big plate of Wonder Bread!

Ah, yes…tomorrow is the really big day….the family gathers together at a beautifully decorated table (oh my, where did you get those big pine cones?) with the house smelling deliciously like roasted turkey and dressing. The children are well-behaved(and well-dressed…no tee shirts) and appreciative of your efforts(“This is delicious Mom“), no one is tipsy…or mouthy…or late…no one say, “I usually put marshmallows on top of my sweet potatoes.” I’ve never actually attended the above feast, mind you, and maybe it exists only in movies or in my mind.

Truth is, tomorrow is a work day for many people…police officers, firemen(or women), doctors and nurses, and yes…news people have to work. So that already puts a little kink in the quest for perfection. In the perfect Thanksgiving no one ever says, “Will you shake a leg on the pie  honey, I’ve got to get to the hospital/police station/BGE/newsroom!”…whatever.

But even though yours truly will put in some hours at work, I’m all good with it. Tomorrow morning I will enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and begin what for me, is the arduous process of transforming butter, flour salt and ice water into pastry dough…where are you Optimus Prime? The one think I’ve been asked to make for the dinner I’m attending, is apple pie. And against my better judgement, I’m doing it from scratch this year. No Pillsbury-already-flatttened pie dough(how do they get it so round? that’s one of my big problems..asymmetrical pie dough), no canned apples-yech-it will be done by my very own hands, though I’m pretty certain….no, make that 100%… Stone Mill Bakery can make a better one.

I did buy an extra dessert, a banana cream pie from Atwater’s…I know, I know, nothing about banana cream pie screams Thanksgiving, but I think it’s nice option for those who might like something different from pumpkin or apple. At least I know that pie will be delicious.

After I make my apple creation, I may try to catch up on Mad Men episodes…as someone was describing the finale this morning, I realized I never saw it! Oh, Don Draper…you never disappoint. There’s a guy who truly does “live in the bubble”.(Ever see that 30 Rock? Hilarious…)

We’ll head over for dinner about 5…eat some fabulous food, talk, relax a little, and then I’ll head on to TV Hill to do the 11 PM news. And be thankful for a good job…and for someone who graciously feeds me Thanksgiving dinner…and for a warm home…all that stuff. While Thanksgiving won’t be perfect, it never is really, and that’s ok too. It’s Thanksgiving! Try to have a lovely day, no matter what it’s like…do something nice for yourself…let a couple of irritating things a family member says to you just  ROOOOOLL off. And smile. And if you have some leftover good karma…send it the way of my pastry dough.

Weekend Wrapup….Jazz, Twilight and Pork Bellies
November 23, 2009

Darryl Harper playing smooth tunes onstage at Creative Alliance

Let’s see….did something I’ve never done before Friday night. Went to a jazz concert at the Creative Alliance, just east of Patterson Park on Eastern Avenue, to see jazz clarinetist Darryl Harper. What a talent he is….he had gathered some great local jazz guys in for a concert and the music was smooth, smokey…very blues. Darryl’s latest album is Stories in Real Time….you can hear  some selection by clicking here…and the Creative Alliance has many unique offerings… for music lovers, film lovers, classes for adults and children, including a 4 week Saturday session of running away to join the circus…”Admit it–your child is amazingly gifted and you’ve dreamt of creating a circus act together. Now’s your chance! Aerial superstar Lizzie Lyra introduces parents and kids to the circus arts: acrobatics, partner balancing, hooping, trapeze.” Come on people! You don’t see that everyday….

OK…saw Twilight…I’m in…all in.  And now I’m ready for New Moon….maybe over the holiday weekend. But I also want to see Precious….I’ve heard it is simply amazing….and Blind Side….also supposed to be just wonderful. It could be a good movie marathon weekend!  I love doing double features with a snack in between. Time to get my movie on. 

Oh, and I made some mean pork belly for dinner one night..(which is the new foie gras, or some people say). Not that I was  foie gras eater…I wasn’t, but I do love properly prepared pork belly. I used a variation of  Jamie Oliver recipe that I found on someone else’s blog….thank you very much….and it was luscious. Just absolutely fantastic. Still have some leftover in the frig. Wait for me…no matter where you are, I will find you!

Getting my Twilight on…have you been bitten??
November 20, 2009

Yes, let's all take pictures of the back of his head!!

Yes, I will be getting my Twilight on this weekend…but not the way many of you are. Most of you will be jamming the gates at the movie theatres to for the opening weekend of  New Moon….but I’m a little behind you. While I have read(and loved, I’m sorry to say…ok, devoured) the Twilight book series…I never saw the first movie Twilight. I’m giving in. I got it the dvd in yesterday from Netflix, and will watch it sometime this weekend. And I’ll probably have to wait and Netflix New Moon as well, because my movie partner…. will absolutely refuse to see it. He’s totally unfazed by the Twilight hysteria. Whatever.

Snarky look delivered to Al Roker after his joke about pie....

And I feel a little sorry(but only a little)for the “kids” who have been catapulted into screaming superstardom by the movies. And wow, the producers have been getting their money’s worth out of them this week. Trotted out on Regis, Today Show, GMA, Ellen, Oprah….you name it, they’ve been there…touting the  marvels of Twilight. And I’m willing to cut Kristen(last name not needed for fans)a little slack. She did say she was sick when she was on Today, and threw poor Al Roker the look you see above, when he made a joke as they were ending the interview. She didn’t know they cut back to her on camera. Or…maybe she didn’t care?  I froze it on the dvr for the picture…it was just too good to pass up. I’m sure they must all be a little exhausted by the appearances and premieres. Enough…give them a holiday!

I hope there’s a little Twilight or something just as interesting in your weekend plans. I have no party to worry about….easy street, baby, easy street.

Spreadsheeting Thanksgiving….
November 19, 2009

Why does my turkey never look like this?

It’s only a week away people…ONE WEEK AWAY!!!! Are you ready? Your Aunt Ida’s recipe for stuffed potatoes at your fingertips… new way to brine your turkey all set….yams ready to roast??  No? Better get it together….

Here’s my situation….I won’t  be cooking Thanksgiving dinner and I will be working part of that day, so a lovely friend who takes in people(flotsam and jetsam like me and the fam) at Thanksgiving, has invited us to share her table. Thank you Betsy. And yes, I will make an apple pie(from scratch), and a surprise dessert(which I will not even attempt)….I stumbled on the most fabulous chocolate caramel sea salt tart at Atwater’s in Belvedere Square  the other day. I know some of you will flinch at the thought of  sea salt on a chocolate tart, but salt and chocolate have a real affinity for each other. The salt somehow makes the chocolate’s sweetness that much more enjoyable. Trust me..it’s delish.

And in the sense of sharing  Thanksgiving with those who are far away from home this holiday….Xeorox, bless their little copying hearts, has provided an easy way for you to send a free printed postcard to military personnel overseas. if you go to LetsSayThanks.com , and it’s in three dead-easy, quick steps…and you don’t have to provide any personal info, not your email address or anything. I just sent one. I liked it.

And for those of you who may be preparing one of your first Thanksgiving spreads, or feel like everything just gets all out of control and flonkerbot on that busy cooking day(I remember the first year I cooked the whole meal by myself, and I didn’t start anything until Thanksgiving Day…with one oven. We didn’t eat until late that night…so sad.), the lovely Jennifer of  ExcelRainman  has created a Thanksgiving Meal Manager spreadsheet  that you can download for free(mac or pc), to get the Thanksgiving beast under control. Recipes, shopping lists, timetables…..it’s all there. That girl is so organized. The beast growls no more.

The Mammogram debate…..should she or shouldn’t she?
November 17, 2009

I like many of you, was pretty surprised yesterday when a government panel of doctors and scientists decided that marching into our doctors office to have a mammogram when we turned 40…..really wasn’t necessary after all. We were just wasting our time….oh, except for the thousands of women who had breast cancer, and had it found and treated.

See where I’m going here? You will never, ever convince a woman whose  mammogram found her cancer, whether she was 45 or 35, say…”Well, I think that mammogram could have waited another 10 years.” No way.

So I just don’t get the thinking here by this esteemed panel of doctors who speaking in terms that sounds a little to me like a conversation(argument)I had years ago with a well-respected gynecologist in town, about Thin Prep pap test. At that time it was new, and you had to pay extra to have it done, but it was and is, a far more sensitive test at catching cervical cancer. This doctor said, “I just don’t think it’s cost-effective. It will catch more cancers, but not a high enough percentage more to make it worth the extra money being spent.” I understood what he was saying, but replied, “Yeah, but if it’s my cervical cancer that isn’t caught…for me, it’s 100%.” And he agreed that was true. Today Thin Prep is standard for all pap tests.

As I heard someone say today, “It’s easy to throw around numbers when you’re not one of them.  Isn’t that the bitter truth?

The wedding finally gets put to bed…..so to speak…
November 16, 2009

The adorable couple, mossy twigs and lots of candles....

This weekend we had an overdue wedding party for our son and the lovely Jennifer here in Baltimore. For those of you who remember( and the even fewer who care)…he was married in NYC late May, in a small, but lovely garden wedding. But with a small wedding, there are lots of people who don’t get to celebrate with you…so for our friends here in Baltimore who have known my son since he was knee-high or so, and quite a few friends with whom he has stayed close since middle school, believe it or not…we all gathered Saturday for one last wedding hurrah.

Sorry I don't have a better picture....

Remember how I dragged a carload of stuff to NYC to decorate for a party Friday night before the wedding, and then had to drag all that stuff home? Candles, vases, flotsam and jetsam….well, a good part of the flotsam went to the restaurant in Federal Hill too.  I wanted a kind of woodsy, rustic look at Taverna Corvino  on south Charles St.

cypress topiary from Lowe's

So I took birch wrapped candles, birch bark containers (got on after xmas sale last year at Pottery Barn)with evergreen trees in them, lots and lots of pine cones that I bought off of Ebay  from Oregon…sugar pine cones that are HUGE! I love them….and one big, silver Mercury glass pine cone from Pottery Barn.( My family again got a big laugh out of my BUYING pine cones off Ebay…whatever.)

See? Big....

In the tall centerpiece above….I had a tall galvanized French flower container….I put florists foam in it and arranged white Mitsumata twigs(from Nettleton Hollow) that are about 3-4 feet tall. Added some hanging votives…and it looked really lovely…or at least the “artiste”(me) who created it thought so.

Good food( who doesn’t like lamb chops with olive tapenade and unbelievable mac and cheese….oh, and the restaurant was kind enough to order in 2 cases of Natty Boh for my son and his friends-they only carry upscale beers…the Natty Boh was all gone at the end of the night. ), old friends, and family….Jennifer’s fam was there too…a lovely fun evening. But I’m glad it’s over…it was on my mind for a while now…you know it needs to happen soon when you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. Now, until my next “worry project” comes along…sweet dreams for me.

Sound-off on dressing/stuffing/filling…or whatever you call it.
November 12, 2009

I wrote last week about an “interesting” recipe my Mom sent from the Birmingham News, for  grits dressing/stuffing for the turkey. I know…it sounds decidedly odd…but the writers of the Glorious Grits cookbook say it’s fabb. We’ll see.  Here’s what readers thought….

From Sue….”My husband would eat grits 24 hours a day. I will have to ask him if he would like his turkey stuffed with grits.” (We have not heard back from Sue about her husbands feelings on a grits dressing.)

Paul(who’s a fancy chef), said, ……”I love grits and used them in many ways but in the turkey?? I just don’t know..It could be one of those things that is possible and palatable but is it better than real dressing. Kind of like a veggie burger being substituted for a real beef burger, while it is tasty it not the same.”  (I couldn’t agree more.)

This was from my grits loving sister in Gulf Shores, Alabama( she had water under her house from Ida)….who wrote me about the recipe for pimento cheese …….” Hi little sister—lots of us still in the deep south add a little Worcestershire sauce–and i also have a friend who adds little green onion–which is very pretty and tasty ! I cannot imagine velveeta –sounds gross!i also want to try the grits dressing–but maybe not for thanksgiving! love u—audie”  And I want to point out that the velveeta and Worcestershire go in the pimento cheese…NOT the dressing. Though on second thought, it might not be half bad.

And from Kathy, a new word for dressing/stuffing…”I learned that grits were delicious when my husband was stationed in the Atlanta area about 25 years ago. I also learned how to make sweet tea and to order un-sweet. Those three years in the South taught me to love much about the South. Don’t know if I want to try grits in my turkey, though. My son-in-law from Philadelphia calls stuffing “filling”–he says that it fills the turkey and that is what they call it.”  OK, that is just odd. I mean I’ve heard of pie filling but turkey filling??  Those Phillies fans….

From Ed…”When this ole Pennsylvania boy went to Tenn for college in the ’70’s I discovered grits. To this day I can’t resist a hot bowl of grits at anytime of the day. Odd thing though, my wife is from Tenn and can’t stand ‘em, go figure. Ever put them in the fridge overnight and then the next day, slice and fry them and put maple syrup on them. Very good!!” Ummmm…Ed, you have committed the cardinal sin in my book about grits…putting sweet stuff on them. It’s just so wrong.

And this one from Jessica has me really intrigued.…” My mother-in-law makes a dressing with grits and saltines that is to die for. She tried to teach me, and after years I think I have it down!”  Well, Jessica, what are you waiting for? Send the recipe so we can give it a try! I do love saltines…maybe that is like an addition of bread to the dressing??

Execution Watch…..
November 10, 2009

Mildred's book of her life with Muhammad....

I hope some of you got a chance to watch the story I did on Mildred Muhammad that aired last night on WBAL-TV…..tonight her ex-husband John Allen Muhammad is set to be executed for one of the ten sniper killings. Mildred has enormous dignity and poise….she is quiet-spoken, lovely, and a passionate advocate for victims of domestic violence. And she certainly was one even though she says her ex-husband never struck her. But there are soooo many other ways of hurting someone, as many of you already know ….firsthand.

She got a permanent restraining order against John Muhammad in 2000….and went into hiding here in Maryland…she was convinced that if he could find her he would certainly kill her, as he had promised her he would do. “You are my enemy, and as my enemy, I will kill you.” Chilling words.

But what struck me most about the interview, is what her children have gone through. Kidnapped for 18 months by their Dad, who was by most accounts a devoted father(though devotion became a mania of sorts)….they have had to watch as their Father was named as an infamous mass murderer. One of the most touching things Mildred said, was, “I appreciate the parents who let their children be friends with my children.” Imagine the pain and heartbreak contained in that one little sentence.

And tonight those 3 kids will know that their Dad, whom they still love in spite of everything, will die from lethal injection. That does something to you. Mildred said she and her husband Reuben are trying to help them process it…though she’s not sure how.  Anyway, send a little prayer, a little balloon of good karma, up tonight for the three Muhammad children….their life has been tough enough, and tonight, it will get tougher still. If you didn’t see the story or want to see Mildred’s entire interview here’s  a link…..oh, and her book Scared Silent is a really good read. You won’t believe all the twists to Mildred’s life with John Allen Muhammad.