Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I don't know about you but I always liked the month of February. When in school we got winter breaks or snow days and as an adult it was the anticipation of Spring. The down side for this month was of course the rent/mortgage was due sooner than normal.  Consider me corky but I like odd things.

According to the morning news it wasn't unusual to have the same birthday with another family member in leap years.  They were mentioning the same date birthday mother and daughter who were going celebrate their birthday in a prestigious hotel in New York City. In the local newspapers they had advertisements for "free this" and "free that" for those who were born on February 29th.  See what I mean?? I guess I'm not the only corky minded person.

Apparently some cultures consider the "Leap Day" an unlucky day. Well, they should be thankful that the  "Leap Year" only comes around  every 4 years.

Some cultures have different calender years  therefore  have different "Leap Years" so there is no escape from a "Leap Year"or "Leap Day". For instance Chinese "Leap Year" has 13 months  and it comes around every three years.  Jewish Leap year  is called "Adar" and the month that is observed  is considered  to be a lucky one. You see there are places in the world where "Leap Year" is reverently celebrated.

According to an Irish legend St. Patrick allowed  women to  propose to men on the "Leap Day" instead of the other way around. Well, hellooo! women power...And I'm guessing that most bachelors in Ireland are in hiding today....

Monday, February 27, 2012


We love our Sunday brunches. At the brunch table my husband and I wrap up the past week,  solve the world's problems, make plans to remodel our house for the umpteenth time, discuss who should clean the dishes afterwords or quitely watch the squirrels dig holes on our lawn to  collect their  treasures they buried in our back yard past summer.  So as you see, Sunday brunches are very special to us.  Just as our conversations I try to make different things each time. This Sunday I made a simple chocolate syrup with prunes (!) in it. Why prunes? a) they are healthy, b)  my husband likes them and c) they taste divine in chocolate.  Try it you'll like it. I'm not going to write the recipe for the pancake because everybody has their own favorite. I made my pancakes plain and a little plump so that the delicious chocolate syrup will go into every little crevice of the pancake.

1/2 Cup whole milk;
1/2 Cup light cream or half and half
1/2 Cup of cocoa powder
1/4 Cup milk chocolate morsels
1/2 Cup sugar
1 Tbsp of butter
10-12 pitted prunes finely chopped
1/4 Cup white wine (optional)

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan and add milk, half and half  and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves.  Add, prunes, cocoa powder and chocolate.  Keep stirring until chocolate and prunes dissolve.  At this point I add white wine.  Once syrup starts bubbling it is ready to pour onto the pancakes. Delicious.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Some people don't like lentils, but they are excellent source of protein especially for vegetarians,  this is a good source. Lentils are versatile. They can be cooked in many ways and they always taste delicious. Especially this lent season I'll be cooking lots of lentils. They are nutty, aromatic and down right good for you. I toyed with this recipe for a while only because some legumes take a longer than others. I also  found out  that there is a way to accelerate the cooking time. When boiling add one (1) tablespoon of baking soda in the pot, voila they become tender and less gaseous. The magic is in the baking soda.  I used the brownish tinted lentils for this dish.  Have a Blessed Lent.

1 Cup of lentil washed and picked over
2  Tbs of olive oil
1 Large onion chopped
1 Clove of garlic minced
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 Cups of water (or vegetable broth) + 2 cups of water for par boiling
1/8 Tsp cumin
1 Large sweet potato (or yam)  boiled and skinned and chopped.

* S and P to taste

Par boil lentils with baking soda for 10-15 minutes, drain and set aside. Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add tomato paste and vegetable broth, cumin and bring to a boil. Add lentils and cover. Cook until lentils are soft to touch. Add sweet potatoes and stir (if you like soup consistency add more broth to make it soupy).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Artichokes always reminded me of a flower bud ready to bloom. Indeed they're giant thistle flower buds. I enjoy their versatility in cooking. Although the outer leaves are though and not edible the very ends of those leaves are fleshy and delicious. I cook artichoke hearts in olive oil,  make artichoke dip with them, cook them in stew, stuff them and use them in salads or stuff and eat the outer leaf ends and heart.  The stuffing I make is easy. For two large artichokes I used vthe following:

1 Cup of bread crumbs or (Panko)
2  Large cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 Cup of Parmigiana Regiano cheese-grated
1/3 Cup chopped fresh parsley                       
4 Tbsp of olive oil  divided (2 Tbsp for stuffing)
1 Cup Water.
*Salt and Pepper to taste*
Mix everything in a bowl and set aside.
Trim the spiky/thorny tips of the artichoke leaves with a pair of kitchen scissors. Cut straight across the top and gently pull apart the leaves and place it in a large pot or microwave safe dish adding  water (check your  microwave guide for fresh vegetables) par boil for 10 minutes until most of the water is evaporated (add more water if needed-they absorb water as they soften).  Remove carefully from pot and turn them upside down to drain any excess water. Once cool enough to handle,  place a teaspoonful of the stuffing between each leaf. Place the stuffed artichoke on a foil lined oven tray and drizzle the remaining oil over it. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until leaves turn brown. 
There is no proper way of eating this other than scraping off the soft part with your teeth and discarding the leaf. Continue eating the stuffed leaves this way until reaching a fury or fuzzy part in the center. This part is the "choke" and it can be scraped or scooped with a spoon or cut out with a knife revealing the beautiful fleshy "heart".  Now, this is the part that you can dip in lemon juice, vinaigrette or any sauce your heart desires. I prefer squeezing lemon juice on mine.  My choice of beverage was beer but my husband opted for a glass of white wine which was an excellent choice.                                                                                                                                                      
 This certainly isn't a date night dish and don't make any plans of kissing the frog and turning him into a prince with all the garlic. Just have lots of napkins and paper towels to avoid having to lick your fingers.....

Friday, February 3, 2012


Yesterday was "Groundhog" day and just like many people I tuned into my radio while having my breakfast. A critter similar to this one was going to predict the weather. I'm not kidding there are thousands of people who will take time to go to witness this event. One of our close friend and his wife travel to  Gobbler's Knob,  near Pittsburgh  Pennsylvania  every year to experience this event. They spend the night there and  wake up wee hours in the morning to witness this little critters prediction. It's such a big event that organizer's  wear tuxedos and top hats. To think that this whole celebration started with a superstition is amazing. According to the legend if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on "Candlemas"  Holiday (it falls on February 2 in Christian calendar) there will be six weeks of  winter. With the mild weather we're having here I 'm afraid that "Phil's" predictions are not very accurate for us  but from what I read and see is that it has been a harsh winter in Europe so far. 
  Apparently this tradition started here in the United States in 1887 and it has never stopped but received more recognition after Bill Murray's "The Ground Hog Day" ( reporter who relived the day) just like our friends who went to Pennsylvania multiple times and watched that movie multiple times....   From what I understand other States hold similar ceremonies and every State has a big name for these critters. He is called Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, in New York he is Staten Island Chuck,  in West Virginia  he is French Creek Freddie, in Georgia he is General Beauregard Lee, in Michigan he is Woody the Woodchuck, in  Ohio he is  Buckeye Chuck.  In Ontario Canada  he is known as Wiarton Willie or in Nova Scotia  he is Shubenacadie Sam.  

Honestly, I will not travel anywhere to observe these critters' events.  I have a whole family of woodchucks  living under my tool shed and I call him "Chucky the Pestfamily".  They eat all my vegetables and flowers and procreate so that we're never out of a family of woodchucks in the neighborhood.  I'm considering whether or not to  hold a "shadow watching" meeting behind my shed next year and if so, you're all invited to show up at 5:00 AM behind my shed at the "Holey Hill"