Archive for November, 2010

November 28, 2010

Cooking to Cope

I’m sorry for the lack of posts this past week-ish, but this has been last priority!

About 2 weeks ago my grandmother (on my mom’s side) told me that my grandfather had pneumonia and the doctors wanted to send him to the hospital, but his is stubborn & old and didn’t want to go, so he didn’t! Then about a week and a half ago he went to two different doctors (his doctors love to see him: eyes, heart, teeth, old people things, etc) one referred him to someone else for the following week and the other scheduled an appointment for 4 months. Then my grandparents went to the store and went on their way, so later that evening my grandmother looks at my grandfather who is now ashy-colored and called the ambulance.

The admitted him, gave him oxygen & he was ok. The next day they tried to give him food for lunch (my grandfather has never “loved” food – he eats to survive, where as the rest of my family survives to eat – and he also hates any vegetables!) but when they took the O2 off, he couldn’t breathe [and he didn’t like that tube O2 stuff]. Later that day (I think) they changed his meds and brought him up to Cardiac ICU because he has a leaky valve [for years – but I guess this is an ok thing!?] and with the meds, they wanted to monitor him more closely. His white blood counts start to improve – we will see him a week later for Thanksgiving! (I told my grandmother to tell him that I asked the nurses to give him the vegetarian diet because it is his favorite – and I hear him yell at me in the background – life is normal!)

Saturday Night/Sunday Morning around 1 am the hospital calls my mom and says he is really suffering and can they give him morphine. The answer is of course yes and then they tell her that he has from hours to days at this point. My grandmother heads to the hospital, my mom calls my uncle in CA, wake us up around 2am [she wanted us to have gotten closer to 2 hours of sleep). By 3am we’re on our way (2hours)to the hospital and my uncle books a flight. He is stable – but OUT on morphine. We give him permission to go and we wait (and sleep and talk and wait). My uncle arrives at the hospital (about 15 hours after the call) and within an hour of my uncle getting there my grandfather’s heart/respiration skyrocket (which is the sign of the end) – they turn off the oxygen tube-thing (he had been breathing through his open mouth like he was sleeping all day anyway) and within 5 minutes he takes one more deep breath and is gone.

This all happened so fast (2 weeks) that we went from having my mom’s parents both here & pretty gosh-darn healthy for people in their mid-late 80s to having him gone. In the scheme of things – it was good, he did not suffer and went calmly the way he wanted (although he wanted to just go in his sleep – which I guess he kinda did). We lost my other grandfather (dad’s dad) just over 2 years ago and he had been suffering in different ways my whole life. I have to consider myself lucky to have had both of my grandfathers around for 25+ years of my life – but it was [IS] still hard.

To help myself cope (since I can not just sit around) – I cooked a little bit. I did not photograph anything (but I also know my aunt and uncle read my blog and enjoy reading about my cooking – so I had to cook for them too!) When we had family over I made another version of my “Spinach Dip” with a lot of garlic as well as making a Pumpkin Pie Dip which I will also be making again – I used a little less sugar than directed and it was perfect. Then I traveled to Rich’s family for Thanksgiving on Turkey-Day where I made Olive Dip (really good – I added more garlic and used sour cream instead of ricotta). For Friday Thanksgiving at my parents (mom is in charge) I made Spinach Cheese Balls (more on those after I make them again & photograph – they were awesome) as well as Cranberry Sauce (my aunt hates the canned stuff).

By cooking, I had something to focus on. I know that time will heal all wounds, but there will always be times that I will think of my grandfather: cut oranges, tea with lemon, mushrooms/eggplant, well cooked steaks, Italian Spears, spare change in pockets, good scotch and many others which will probably come to me at the most random times!

November 15, 2010

Classic Fondue Fun

I’m not sure about anyone else, but fondue has been something that has not worked out so well for me. I LOVE cheese, and anything that involves cheese (and when its melty & warm too – yeah, its good stuff!) A few weeks ago I finally made a successful  beer & cheese fondue (attempt #3 of making fondue and the 1st time that it actually ever worked – see link at the bottom of this post). That was basically just beer & cheddar.

Fast forward a week (Halloween Night, 2 trick-or-treaters) and, I know, I’m a few days [weeks] late on posting this, but I figure I’ve been cooking and just keeping track of what needs to get posted, a good problem in my book. Anyway, I wanted to try to make the “typical” wine fondue this time!

🙂 Fondue Spread 🙂

I found this recipe (and trust me, they are all basically the same – I just like this description and the fact that she helped me through the whole process too), made the shopping list, chopped the veggies, had the boy & best friend there and crossed my fingers!


IT WORKED… the key to making fondue is a super slow addition of the cheese, good stirring technique, and the addition of the corn starch (dissolved) as needed [no cornstarch was needed with the beer fondue fyi]. It was YUMMY – below is the recipe (with the stuff that I did). Let me know how it works for you

take a dip

1 clove garlic [crushed]
little over 1 cup white wine (dry?)
8 oz. gruyere, grated
8 oz. emmentaler (I used grated Swiss)
1 tbs. cornstarch dissolved in  a couple tbs. brandy [apple cider]

1.  Rub the garlic all over the inside of your pot (then mince -we love garlic)
2. Add a little over a cup of wine to the pot and bring to a simmer slowly (medium.).  Handful by handful, stirring constantly in a figure-8 motion, gradually add in the cheeses.
3. Add some of the cornstarch/kirsch mixture.  Keep stirring until it all comes together in creamy deliciousness.  Season with pepper. Consistency not right?  Add a little more wine to thin, add a little more cheese to thicken.

Halloween Pumpkin Carving Party Fondue… I used this recipe (without the swiss, because I forgot it – so it was just beer & cheddar)


November 13, 2010

One Can at a Time

Kids are AMAZING!

stage filled from the drive

Our staff (at DeFranco Elementary – Bangor Area School District) organized a canned food drive (“Pack the Pantry”) to help those in our community. We have an organization (Slater Family Network) that helps families in community with all sorts of things ranging from food to clothing to classes to making a stronger school-home community. Because of the tough times our area (and the country) seem to be having right now – the Slater Family Network has been suffering, as many organizations that help others have been. Our gym teacher always seems to have something up his sleeve and this fall was a driving force behind this food drive.

taking a pie for the kids

We knew once we gave the kids a challenge to help others they would come through (our 5th & 6th graders raised as much, if not more, than any other building last year when we collected money to support Haiti). The first challenge we set out for the kids was basically for bragging rights between 2 of our teachers (gym & math specialist – those two put themselves out on the line for our kids so much, thanks!). Then the challenge progressed into “if we can get x-many cans we will throw pies in the face” – which of course the kids rose to the occasion (3 pies were thrown at each of them). And all along the staff knew this final challenge – but if in the last 2 weeks if they could bring in (200??) cans the guys would dress up in formal dresses.

Daily we would get updates on how many canned foods


were brought in (and the Slater Family Network was also coming to take cans as the kids were bringing them in to fill their needs). There were some days that more than 200 cans were brought in by the 500 students in our building. We are not even sure of the final count – but our stage/risers was PACKED with food for the drive. Never underestimate the power of kids (with help from their parents) – when these kids want to make a difference…. they do!

November 11, 2010

World of Opera – meet Adrian Rosas!

Disclaimer: this is not a blog post about food!

My dear friend Adrian Rosas has an amazing voice, started his career in college as a Jazz singer & then turned to Opera when people encouraged him to pursue that avenue. When Adrian first went into Opera I had no experience with it (at least not anything positive). As time went on and I actually heard him sing – my views changed. Adrian just finished his Masters Degree from Julliard. While he was there I not only had the opportunity to visit him again but also watch Adrian and his fellow classmates rehearse for their Opera: The Marriage of Figgaro. I found a new appreciation for Opera (even if I don’t understand what is going on at all time!).

Adrian rehearsing for Viva la Mamma, photo by Alan Alabastro

Recently Adrian came as a guest teacher (after driving 1/2 way across the country on his way home from his summer at the St. Louis Opera) to a drama camp I was assisting. The way he was able to pull things out of these students in just a few short hours – I was blown away.

So read this blog post about this up & coming Opera super-star as he is starting his career in the Young Artist Program with the Seattle Opera Company.

Congrats Adrian – I am so happy to be able to call you a friend & remember that you promised me you would get jobs in cool places around the world so I can come visit you. Thank you for blessing those around you with your talent, kindness & energy for life!

November 10, 2010

Fall Indian Curry

I know that we are well past Halloween, but before heading out for Halloween a few weeks ago we had friends over. I had seen a recipe for a Squash Soup in my November Food & Wine that I wanted to try, but then saw chicken on sale AND knew that I had lots of potatoes, so ended up falling in love with this recipe for Chicken Curry with Potatoes & Squash from Food & Wine instead.

The recipe called for basically making our own curry but Rich has a few different curry pastes that he had picked out at a little market by him (I need to start checking out the ‘ethnic markets’ in this area so I can experiment more)!

Halloween 2010

We had tons of things going on Halloween weekend (football games, neighbor’s party, haunted tours/hayrides, friends/parties, trick-or-treaters) and at about 4:30 finally got home on that Saturday. We had friends showing up at 6:30 and still had to cook dinner AND create our Halloween costumes……

Dinner was AMAZING! This dish was so easy to put together (the cutting of veggies & such was the hardest part). The house smelled great, the company was enjoyable, but unfortunately we decided that Indian Curry recipes are very hard to make look pretty. Try this out (I used a pre-made can of yellow curry instead of all the spices which I couldn’t even find in the market anyway!) and follow the recipe below [which I made my changes to – I left the spice directions in] from Food & Wine

Potato Squash Chicken Curry


  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2-ish onions, sliced/chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, sliced
  • One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • [12 curry leaves]
  • [2 teaspoons garam masala]
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • One pkg boneless-skinless chicken thighs (I had about 8 thighs I think)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large baking potato, [peeled] and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1/2 of a medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cut into small cubes
  • One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup(ish) chicken stock
  • [cilantro]


  1. In a small skillet, toast the coriander, chile powder and turmeric over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the water to form a paste. [OR this is from your can of curry paste[
  2. In a very large, deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and curry leaves and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the spice paste, garam masala and black pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the oil separates from the paste, about 2 minutes.
  3. [Lightly season the chicken pieces with salt.] Add the chicken, diced potato and squash to the skillet and stir to coat with the seasonings. Stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the chicken is cooked through and the potato and squash are tender, about 25 minutes [and add in some fresh cilantro to flavor while the dish is in the last few minutes of cooking]. Using a slotted spoon, (we like the sauce – no slotted spoon) transfer the chicken pieces to a bowl. [I skipped this & just served everything over the rice] Season the curry sauce with salt, pour it over the chicken and serve [sprinkle some fresh cilantro overtop].
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