Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pear and Parsnip Soup

This is a soup I like to make.  It is simple to put together with only three ingredients and it tastes wonderful.

3 or 4 large parsnips, peeled and cut up
3 or 4 large pears, peeled, cored, and cut up
about 6 cups of chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pears and parsnips in the chicken broth in a large pot until tender.  With a food processor or hand blender, puree until you get a smooth consistency.

Done!  I told you it was simple.

The flavor is so good alone, that I don't add salt and pepper

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wall of blooms

A number of years ago, I planted these bushes along the fence in my backyard when they were just about 3 feet tall.  This is a member of the hydrangea family.  The blooms start out as huge white blossoms and gradually turn pink over the summer.

All the bushes are over my head and provide a beautiful wall of privacy during the summer and early fall.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Update on Nancy

In a recent post, I wrote about my long time friend, Nancy, who had surgery for cancer last week.  I am pleased to report she is home now and no longer confined to the hospital.

She is sending text messages and has even been on facebook!  It isn't going to be an overnight recovery but she is doing well and improving.  She has strong support from her family and friends and that is so very important.  Equally important, she is going to do everything she can to beat this thing.  Attitude, family and friends support, the best medical care available. . . a winning combination.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Candy Basket

When I came to my current job at the Medical Center three years ago, I was told it was my job to keep the candy jar full. . . and only with special dark Hershey kisses!  I inherited a small glass candy jar with a lid, something you would expect to find in the home of an elderly lady.

Well, I like variety and I never liked that candy jar!  And I have a reputation for stirring up the pot on occasion.  About two weeks ago, I came into work carrying the basket above filled with a variety of candy. . . I had it inside a white plastic bag so that I wouldn't get mugged on the way in from the parking lot.

It was an instant sensation!  "Now THAT'S a candy basket!" one young doctor proclaimed on first finding it!

It has become a popular gathering place and to be honest, I enjoy watching people dig through it to find that perfect piece of candy.  I fill it with everything from hard candy (butterscotch, peppermint, sour balls, lifesavers) to all kinds of chocolate.  I go through the bulk candy department at Wegmans and grab a handful of this and a handful of that.  Taffy is another popular treasure people like to find.

Working in a top ranked major medical center is a big source of stress.  I hope the candy basket can brighten everyone's day and it appears that is just what it does.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A nice day for a ride

I drove to Romulus, NY this morning to pick up a quarter of a beef from my farmer.  It was a nice drive down the Thruway and then a turn South at the Geneva exit.  In New York, once you get off the Thruway and into the "real" New York, it is a pleasant landscape.  I passed through Waterloo, the birthplace of Memorial Day, a quaint little village with old world buildings and homes.  Once out of Waterloo, there are miles and miles of farmers' fields.

When I returned home and was busy putting all the meat in my freezer, I threw a beef bone at Morgan that kept her entertained.  They always give me a bag of bones for Morgan.

Autumns Harvest Farm is a grass fed farm.  That means their beef, pork and chickens are fed on grass, with no hormones or other yucky stuff.  The meat is much healthier for you than that grown in the large commercial operations.  I have been buying from them for probably about 5 years.  Do a search of grass fed meat and you will learn why it is healthier for you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Nancy and I have been friends for over 40 years.  I met her and Robert right after moving to Rochester.  We watched each other's kids grow up.  Today she had surgery for cancer.  Needless to say, anyone who cares about Nancy had cause for worry.  I stayed with Robert during the surgery, as did a few others.  

The surgery appears to be a success and we are all hopeful.  This just came out of thin air and no one saw it coming until a few weeks ago.  But she had two of the very best oncology surgeons operating on her today.

Long time readers of my blog have no doubt seen her mentioned here before.  We have backpacked, cross country skied, day hiked, and paddled extensively together and had many fun times.  But more importantly, we have been there for each other through good times and bad.  That's what friends do.

The picture above was taken just a few days ago.  It is the best picture I have ever seen of her.  She will lose her hair to chemo, but hopefully that will be a short term thing.

I consider Nancy's friendship a true blessing and I look forward to many more years of paddling, camping, dinners together, and, oh yes, for years, we have planned to hike Mt. Marcy (the highest peak in NYS) on our 80th birthday.  We are six months apart in age. . . she's the oldest!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Smoking meat is fun, easy, and delicious!

I can't believe how long I waited to try smoking meat because it seemed difficult and a lot of effort!  I've come a long way since back in early Spring of this year when I bought a Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker and it sat in the box for several days in my living room because I was afraid to try to put it together by myself!  And then waited a week before I used it because, "what if I ruin the meat?"

I not only assembled it by myself, I have had great success with the meat I have put in it. . . whole chickens, baby back ribs, a pork shoulder, and a chuck roast.

A chicken cooked in a smoker is perhaps the easiest, and sitting by the smoker enjoying that wonderful aroma is one of life's simple pleasures.  Prepare the chicken by letting it soak overnight in a brine.  There are many brine recipes out there - online and in smoking cookbooks.  The one I use is simply water, kosher salt and brown sugar.  Make enough so that the chicken is totally submerged.

About an hour and a half before you want to put the chicken in the smoker, take it out of the refrigerator, discard the brine, rinse the chicken well and then pat dry with paper towels.  Cover it with a homemade rub - there are plenty of rub recipes to choose from.  Next let the chicken sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.

Prepare your smoker by first pouring cold charcoal in the bin of the smoker.  In a charcoal chimney, heat up charcoal (enough to fill the chimney), soak your wood chips for 20 minutes or more.  What kind of wood chips?  Well, there are a lot to choose from:  hickory, apple, cherry, mesquite. . .  When the charcoal is ready, pour it over the unheated charcoal and then add the wet wood chips.  Next place the bowl of water in the smoker above the charcoal.  Now you are ready to place the prepared chicken on the rack and put the lid on.  My smoker has a shaded area on the thermometer and as long as you keep the interior temperature in the shaded area, you are fine.  You maintain the proper temperature by either closing or opening the vents on the smoker.

I have found, for a chicken, you don't need to add charcoal during the cooking process.  For meats requiring longer smoking time you likely will need to add fresh charcoal (heated up, of course!).  How often you add moist wood chips is a matter of taste, about every two hours or so.  My smoker has a door on the side that you can use to add charcoal and/or wood chips without disturbing the meat above.

Use a quality brand of charcoal, such as Kingsford, for longer lasting coals.  A few days ago, I smoked a large chuck roast for 4 hours and 45 minutes and I never had to add charcoal.  

When the meat is done, let it sit at room temperature for about a half hour.  I always test with a meat thermometer before taking it out of the smoker, except that I have done so many chickens that I learned to tell when they are done without the thermometer, but for other meats, I do use the thermometer.  Smoking times given in your owner's manual or in recipes are kind of "ballpark" figures and you may find your cooking time differs.

I clean the rack and the water bowl outside under a water faucet with a steel wool pad.  Once a year, you need to clean the interior of the smoker. . . that will be more of a challenge, but the rewards you get from the smoker are well worth it!

Whether you are a beginner or a pro, I would welcome hearing from you and sharing recipes and techniques.  If you have never tried smoking meat, you don't know how much enjoyment - and great taste - you are missing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It was once a beautiful tree. . .

The tree in my front yard, at one time a beautiful Maple tree, is now debris out by the road for the town to pick up.  For years, daffodils grew at its base in the spring, followed by impatiens in the summer.  But in recent years, it began to die.   When it got to the point that I feared a strong wind would knock down its branches and cause damage, I knew it was time to take it down.  

This was found in one of the branches, but the babies and their mom were gone.

Ropes being strung to make way for the fall.

It's gone.  I learned a lesson from someone who knows about these things.  If you have a tree that you want to keep, it is a good idea to have a tree expert take a look at it every few years.  That way, problems can be caught early and the tree can be saved.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I really do care. . .

Someone I know, who is going through a really tough time, through no fault of their own, said something to me this week that really touched my heart.

"Other people ask me how I am doing, but they don't really want to know.  I know that you really mean it when you ask how I am coping."

I was dumbfounded to hear that.  Everyone goes through rough times now and then.  Yes, I do care.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A bittersweet picture

I posted this picture today on facebook as a TBT (Throwback Thursday) photo.  That's me with my twin sons, just two weeks old, taken back in 1973.  So, you are thinking, "so why the title, a bittersweet picture?"

I ran across this picture recently and it immediately stirred strong feelings inside me.  Yes, the picture of me holding my twin sons, brought a tear of joy to my eyes.  I was so very happy to bring them into the world as two healthy, full term babies.  I always felt having twins was a special gift from God.  John and Michael are every mother's dream and I am happy with the way they turned into responsible, intelligent adults.  Both married women that I was pleased to welcome into the family and John has given me three grandsons that I love.

But look closer at that picture.  In the background.  The dog.  That is Happy, a Samoyed mix, that my former husband and I got before we had children, as a young puppy.

I was raised in a home with a father who didn't like dogs and did not allow a dog to live in the house.  "Dogs are dirty and don't belong in the house," was his sermon.  "They carry diseases."  So the few dogs I had over the years were relegated to a pin outside.

As a young married couple, we got Happy.  Geez, what the two of us knew about raising a puppy was pathetic.  It was cute when Happy was a puppy and he did puppy things.  We laughed at his antics.  Dog obedience classes?  What was that?  Happy had little or no discipline.

Without going into the unpleasant details, Happy soon moved in with my mother.  She lived alone and Happy was a joy to her.  And I have to admit, he seemed to calm down in his behavior, at least somewhat, with her.  The years went by and my mother's health declined to the point that she could no longer properly care for Happy.  In spite of a great effort to find a good home for him, he had to be taken to the shelter.  From that point on, I never knew what happened to him.  Did he find a loving home? 

Then John and Michael came into the picture.  "Okay," I said to Don.  "We have to do better with these two kids!"  And we did.  Over the years, we often said that Happy taught us how to raise children.  You can't let a baby or toddler get away with something that is cute and then later on punish the child for the same thing just because he is older and should know better.

Looking at this picture and thinking of how unfair we were in raising Happy, I am also pleased that I have had great success with the Labs in my life, going all the way back to 1985.  Morgan is my fourth Lab and next summer, I plan to bring home another Lab puppy.

Happy, I hope you found a good home for the rest of your days.