Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday Night Defensive Pistol

Every Tuesday night I go to my Defensive Pistol Shoot at the Genesee Conservation League. Except that back in February the roof caved in due to too much snow. (This was a rough winter in the Northeast) For the last three months, we have not been able to use the indoor range while repairs were being made. I really missed going. Not only is the Defensive Pistol Shoot just plain fun, it is excellent training for using a handgun in a defensive situation.

Each week different scenarios are set up simulating possible real life situations. You are judged on speed and accuracy while at the same time you may only shoot the "bad guy" and not the "good guy". The bad guy is either a t-shirt or poster of a person with a pistol pointed at you. With seconds to decide, is that a beer can or a pistol in that man's hand? If you are faced with three bad guys, which one do you shoot first? Then they mix things up. There can be a "bad guy" in front of a "good guy." You must shoot the bad guy without hitting the good guy. Sometimes they put a piece of equipment out that has 6 inch disks lined up in a row. This may seem easy enough to hit from relatively close range. But add in the time factor and you have a challenge!

LIke everyone else, I hope I never have to use a gun in a real life situation. I am happy to spend the rest of my life shooting at targets - a gallon plastic jug filled with water and hit with a hollow point bullet is loads of fun, and so is hitting the cross hairs of a target with my cousin, Kenny, standing there trying to convince me I can't hit the broad side of a barn. But if that day ever comes when my life is on the line, I am grateful for the training I have had, not only on Tuesday nights but the many NRA sanctioned classes I have taken in personal defense.

There is a lot of skill, knowledge and responsibility that goes with the decision to carry a concealed weapon for personal protection.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How I spent my Memorial Day Weekend

It was a yard work weekend for me. Above you see the impatiens that I plant every year under the big tree in the front yard. I should have taken a "before" picture. . . I had to clear away the daffodils that were post-bloom and the weeds. After planting all 72 impatiens, I mulched the area.

Next I moved on to the oval shaped flower bed also in the front yard. It was overgrown with weeds and I had to cut back the daffodil leaves. One of my two burning bushes didn't survive the winter (or rather the deer) so I had to cut that out. I planted two shasta daisy plants where the old burning bush used to be, then mulched the area.

There are coneflowers, black-eyed susans, lambs ear, and a couple of other varieties here. In a few more weeks, this area will be alive with color.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Delicious Buttermilk Pancakes Recipe

I have chosen The Gift of Southern Cooking, copyright 2003, from my cookbook collection for today's post. This is one of those cookbooks you can enjoy reading as much as trying the recipes. It is written by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, both well-known and accomplished Southern cooks. The unique component of this cookbook is Edna's specialty for Virginia country cooking and Scott's inventive blending of new tastes with the Alabama foods he grew up on, liberally seasoned with Native American, Caribbean, and African influences. The result is an entertaining and wonderful collection of Southern cuisine.

Even the table of contents is creative, with chapter titles such as "Welcome to the Southern Table", "Sweet and Sharp - from Coleslaw to Caveach", "Come Evening, It's Suppertime", and "It Doesn't Have to be Fancy." Are you wondering what "caveach" is? So was I! It is a cold fish salad. The original recipe came from a hundred year old cookbook which Edna and Scott updated. The recipe is on page 72 of the cookbook.

I rarely make pancakes for breakfast. But when I ran across their recipe for Buttermilk Pancakes, I caved in! Folks, these pancakes are to die for!

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
unsalted butter to grease the skillet

Put the flour, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl and whisk briefly to blend. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg and then add the melted butter. Dump the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until the batter is well blended and there are no large lumps.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat and grease lightly with a little butter. Spoon out batter onto hot griddle for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on top. Flip the pancakes and cook 30 seconds longer.

Serve hot with lots of butter and heated syrup.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Michael wins at the Chase Corporate Challenge

My son, Michael, was a winner at the Chase Corporate Challenge this week. For those outside the Rochester area, the Chase Corporate Challenge is a very popular 3 mile race held each year on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology. Companies in the Rochester area send contestants. This year 9000 people attended.

Michael, for the second year in a row, won first place among the runners from his company.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Aren't grandchildren wonderful?

Here are a few more pictures of my grandkids.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kevin completes a triathlon!

Kevin, my ten-year-old grandson, completed his second Kids Triathlon this weekend. Congratulations, Kevin!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sporting Clays Shooting

I spent an enjoyable afternoon today shooting sporting clays at Rochester Brooks Gun Club.

Sporting clays has been described as "golf with a shotgun!" You follow a course with stations. At each station, when the button is pushed, clays come flying out . . . and if you're good!. . . you hit them. The course follows a scenic path through the woods and open fields. I hit "some" of them!!!

Rochester Brooks is one of the premier sporting clays clubs in the nation and a lot of tournaments are held there. I am far from ready for competition. I really don't care about competition. It's just fun to get outside on a nice day and enjoy the company of people. The nice thing about sporting clays is the challenge and you can enjoy it no matter what your skill level.

And a nice end to the day was when my shooting partner offered to clean my shotgun! Wasn't going to turn that one down!!! I'm so new to shotguns, that I still have to go on You Tube to watch the video on field stripping my shotgun.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Best of the Best, best recipes from the best cookbooks of the year

Food and Wine Magazine wades through the over 1000 cookbooks published each year to find the very best. This one, published in 1998, is one of my favorites. It includes everything from top shelf gourmet to everyday dishes everyone would enjoy. For each cookbook featured in this volume, the reader is told why that particular one was chosen.

The recipe I chose to share with you here comes from Sheila Lukins' USA Cookbook. Sheila is a former Silver Palate collaborator. In putting this cookbook together, she spent three years traveling around the country, sampling chowder in New England, salsa in the Southwest, and the specialties of the house at high-toned restaurants and roadside eateries all over. The result is a collection as sprawling as America.

Larry Smith's Mother's Pork Chops

4 pork loin chops, 1 inch thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dried sage leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

Sprinkle the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Rub well with the dried sage.

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the pork chops on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low and cook the chops uncovered, turning once, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chops to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions to the skillet, raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook 5 minutes more, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the chopped fresh sage. Return the chops to the skillet and bury them in the onions. Cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cooking up a Storm

This cookbook came about as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Many of the Katrina victims lost everything they owned, including cherished family recipes. The local newspaper, The Times-Picayune, set out to help replace these recipes. Using their massive archives, a lot of these recipes were found there. Others were contributed by individuals, local chefs and restaurants.

New Orleans is well-known for its diverse culinary history. This unique cookbook offers the very best of classic and contemporary New Orleans cuisine.

This Eggplant Casserole is quick to put together and very good.

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup Sauternes wine
4 tablespoons butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine eggplant, onion, and wine. Cover and cook over medium heat until the eggplant is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir and mash the eggplant with a fork or potato masher. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the beaten eggs. Cover for 5 minutes to cook the eggs. Stir in the seasoned bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes, then serve.

Angel Hair with Creole Tomatoes and Basil

(If creole tomatoes are not available, use other variety)

1 pound angel hair pasta
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
red pepper flakes
1 pound creole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with the juice
1 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain well and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and garlic and toss to coat evenly.

Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Add the tomatoes, including the juuice that has accumulated, and toss with the mixture. Adjust seasonings if needed.

Pour the mixture onto a platter or into a shall bowl and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with the basil and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Something I learned about myself

I suppose no matter how old you are you can still learn things about yourself that you didn’t already know. That happened to me this weekend when I discovered, quite by accident, that there are websites that specialize in selling vintage cookbooks.

I was thrilled! . . . kind of like being in cookbook heaven, since you all know by now that I have an extensive collection of cookbooks, some dating back 40 years. And the prices were low – most under $7.00. Yet I quickly became bored going through these sites. Yes, there were one or two, out of hundreds, that I could have been moved to buy, but didn’t.

Not understanding my feelings, I stared out the window, gazing at the large lilac bush in the front yard covered with blooms.

Then it struck me! Yes, I love collecting cookbooks. But what tugs at my heart when thinking about my collection are the memories of using these cookbooks over the years and how I came to acquire each one. . . the compliments I’ve gotten from family and dinner guests when serving something from one of my cookbooks. One of my recent cookbook posts here took me back more than 20 years to an evening with dinner guests and the fun times we had that night. I have an old bread baking cookbook – haven’t featured it yet on my blog! – I learned to make bread from its pages and have used it so many times over the years. With that cookbook, I went from a big failure with my first loaf of bread to becoming an accomplished bread baker.

I don’t know what my family will do with my collection when I die. I hope those cherished volumes of recipes will go to someone who will get as much joy and satisfaction out of them as I have gotten.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Here is my grandson, Jake, playing catcher. Looks like Major League quality to me!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Andrew!

My grandson, Andrew, is six years old today! Happy Birthday, Andrew!

It seems like only yesterday we were all sitting around waiting for Jen to go to the hospital with Kevin and Jake asking over and over, "Mom, when are you going to the hospital?"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Another Cookbook That's a Real Winner!

Regular readers of my blog have figured out by now that my cookbook collection is not only large, but diverse.

This one, dating back to 1982, is smeared and dirty, from lots of use! This is the one I go to when company is coming and I really want to impress them.

These are recipes from restaurants all over the world, from grand hotels and family inns and local cafes collected from the pages of Bon Appetit magazine. It has a useful index in the back listing all the restaurants that were included, along with a recipe index. In short, I love this one!

This recipe was always a favorite with my dinner guests. Enjoy.

Chicken Queen Elizabeth

6 chicken breast halves, boned skinned and pounded thin seasoned with salt and pepper
6 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
6 thin slices Swiss cheese
6 thin slices ham
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs


1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes, partially drained
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of freshly ground pepper

apricot halves for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste. Top each with 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 slice of cheese and 1 slice of ham. Roll tightly. Brush with butter and sprinkle with half of the breadcrumbs.

Arrange compactly, crumbed side down in 6-inch square baking dish. Pour remaining butter over top and sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs. Cover and bake 45 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Set aside and keep warm while preparing sauce.

For sauce: Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer the sauce for 3 to 5 minutes.

On a platter covered with cooked rice, arrange chicken. Cover with sauce and garnish with apricots.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

America's Best Recipes, State Fair Blue Ribbon Winners

Now here is a cookbook with exceptional recipes on every page. What would you expect, knowing that each is a blue ribbon winner at a State Fair across the country? Many of the recipes have been secret family recipes for generations.

You will find everything from Baking Soda Biscuits, Corn Bread, Chuck Wagon Beef Stew, Carrot Cake, Hush Puppies, Shoo Fly Pie and so much more.

This book was written in 1983 by Rosemary and Peter Hanley. I don't know if it is still in print, but well worth checking out used book stores to find it.

I love the Chuck Wagon Beef Stew. Mmmm, is it delicious! Maybe not quite as heart healthy as most of us eat these days, but well worth serving.

5 or 6 slices bacon, cut in half
2 pounds lean beef, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 pound small pearl onions
2 cloves garlic, finely shopped
1 can tomato paste
1 can beef broth (10 1/2 oz.)
1 cup dry red wine
6 carrots
6 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 red peppers, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
10 fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 bay leaves

In a large cast iron dutch oven, crisp the bacon and then remove, drain and reserve.

Shake the cubed beef with the flour in a plastic bag or other container. Brown the beef in bacon fat, adding more bacon fat if needed. Add onion, garlic, broth, sauce, and wine. Cook covered approximately one and a half hours. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for one hour more. Garnish with reserved bacon strips.

This recipe was a winner at the New York State Fair.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

First-of-the-season bike ride

Yesterday I rode my bike from my home, to the Erie Canal bike path east towards the Village of Pittsford and back, a distance of slightly more than 12 miles. . . a good distance for the first time out!

I am fortunate to live a short distance from one of the entrances to the path and over the years I have spent many good times riding my bike, walking, or paddling this great recreational asset. If you remember your grade school history, the Erie Canal runs from the Hudson River north of New York City, across New York State to Buffalo. Along the way there are locks and my route yesterday passed by two of them. It is becoming more and more common for out of staters to rent boats and travel all or a section of the canal for a summer vacation.

Here are pictures I took along the way. It's still a bit early in the season for the usual crowds. But I passed rollerbladers, people walking dogs, and of course, bicyclists.

One section of the canal is drained for the winter and usually water is allowed back in the first week of May. This year, however, the Canal Authority is delaying that due to high water levels. This is a section that is drained.

This was my destination for yesterday's ride, Schoen Place in the Village of Pittsford. A little later in the season and this place would be much more crowded than this picture shows. In fact, for this section, you have to walk your bike, rather than ride, due to the number of people.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mothers Day!

My grandsons, Kevin, Jake, and Andrew, made this for me. Isn’t it just adorable? I’m going to frame it and hang it in my home. On each petal of the flower, they wrote words they think describe me.

If you click on the picture, it enlarges it for better viewing.

Friday, May 6, 2011


It won't be long now till my six lilac bushes will be covered in big beautiful blooms!

I planted them about 3 or 4 years ago when they were all small enough to fit, laying on their side, in the back of my Honda Civic (with the back seat down!) and now they all tower over me! After the blooms are gone this year, I am going to cut the tops of the plants to encourage them to spread out in their growth. I never knew they'd get as tall as they are now.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bless Your Heart, Saving the World One Covered Dish at a Time

I can’t think of a more fitting title for a cookbook featuring Southern cooking than “Bless your Heart!” It is nearly impossible to spend any amount of time down South without hearing this phrase often!

This is another cookbook you will read like a book because of its many stories, in addition to the recipes. Here is one heartwarming example. “Eddie Ray Barnell, ninety-two, dropped dead in the middle of the night on a Saturday. Heart attack in the backyard. He was in his bare feet, and to this day his wife says she has no idea why he went outside. Some of us have our suspicions but we don’t like to talk out of turn. . . . I was the first one out to the Barnell place with my mixed medley casserole. Serves ten. Twelve if you don’t spoon out big portions, and I knew it would be a small crowd at the house because the Barnells, bless their hearts, never had any children.”

To quote from the introduction, “Southerners are good at many things. We’re good at telling tales, preserving tradition, and greeting strangers on the sidewalk. We mind our manners, honor our heritage, and remember not to wear white after Labor Day. But what Southerners are really good at is food.”

With chapter titles such as “Church Potluck, Feeding the Faithful”, “Body and Soul, When Words Aren’t Enough” and “Lending a Hand, Because It’s What We Do”, you just know that this is an honest to goodness down home style book.

Here are samples of the delicious recipes you’ll find here along with comments from the author.

Deviled Eggs

Maybe the only time the devil is welcome at church.

6 large eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon vinegar
4 drops Tabasco
Paprika for garnish

Place the eggs in a saucepan large enough to accommodate all of the eggs in a single layer, covering with water by one inch. Simmer over medium heat for 14 minutes. Remove from heat and place the eggs in cold water to prevent further cooking. Crack the shells, peel and split lengthwise. Remove the yolks, place in a small bowl, and mash with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt, black pepper, vinegar, and hot sauce and mix well. Spoon the filling into the whites. Garnish with paprika.

Temptation Carrot-Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Blessed are those children who can pass this cake by before it has been sliced – without being tempted to run a finger through the frosting to get a taste.


2 cups self-rising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups carrots, finely grated
1 8 ounce can crushed pineapple
¼ cup chopped pecans

Cream cheese icing:

1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chopped pecans

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl, mix the flour and cinnamon. In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and eggs and mix well. Add the flour mixture and continue beating to blend ingredients. Fold in the carrots, pineapple, and pecans. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans. Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each pan comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely before icing.

To make the cream cheese icing: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until creamy. Fold in the pecans. Spread the icing over the top of each layer, stacking one on top of the other. Ice the sides.

Can’t you just imagine the praise you will get for serving this one???

This is one cookbook everyone will love, no matter what part of the USA you call home.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Of all my cookbooks on vegetarian cooking, this one is my favorite. Deborah Madison is a well-known author of vegetarian cuisine and she has done a superb job with this one.

She has elevated vegetarian cuisine to a new level of sophistication and introduced many people to the joy of cooking without meat.

I like this cookbook because there are a multitude of vegetarian dishes that are nice enough to serve to company. Even if you are not excited about meatless meals, most of the recipes in this collection would compliment a meal with meat. She teaches how to bring out the flavor of vegetables.

I found the chapter on Gratins and Casseroles particularly interesting with many imaginative recipes. One of these is the Cauliflower Gratin with Tomatoes and Feta. Not only is this a delicious creation, it has great eye-appeal as you place it in front of your guests. Serve with a tossed salad and rice on the side.

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced - or a 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 to 4 ounces crumbled feta
finely chopped parsley

Preheat the broiler and lightly oil a 2 quart gratin dish.

Heat the oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, and cinnamon and cook until the onion is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cook for 7 minutes more, then add the honey and capers and season with salt and pepper. Slide the mixture into the dish.

Meanwhile, steam the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Set it on the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top and add the feta. Place 5 or 6 inches under the broiler until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sue Slater

This has taken me over a week to write and even now I’m not sure I can get through it.

My good friend for over 35 years, Sue Slater, died on April 18. The day after that I received an e-mail – which I thought was from Sue. It was a reply to a series of e-mails she and I had been exchanging over the past few days. “Hi, Mrs. Bennett,” it began. SUE, why are you calling me ‘Mrs. Bennett?’

“This is Shelly. . .” Now my mind was in a turmoil. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. My eyes were moving quicker than my brain, but I caught the phrase, “mom passed away. . .” I later found out Sue died quite unexpectedly early in the morning of a sudden heart attack.

For 3 or 4 days I felt like a robot. You do this, you do that, because you have to. Sometimes I cried and sometimes I laughed. I laughed at all the fun times we’d had over the years and at the many hilarious conversations we shared.

I first met Sue a day or two after my husband and infant twin sons moved to Rochester back in 1974. In those days, most of the women in the neighborhood were housewives and mothers. A neighbor came over and said she would like to have a coffee get together for me to meet the neighbors. The next day at the gathering, there were maybe 6 or 8 women who lived in homes all around mine.

Sue stood out! Sue was animated and talkative in a crowd of somewhat quiet women. Then I found out she had four daughters ranging in age, at that time, from 5 to 12. Hhmmm! Immediately I thought, a constant supply of babysitters for as long as I will need a babysitter!

It didn’t take long to find out there was much more substance to Sue than the fact she could supply me with babysitters. She and I thought alike on so many things. And her husband, Ken, had played baseball for the New York Yankees! Wow! I was impressed.

We watched each others children grow up. I could entertain you with cute things her girls said over the years as they grew. But I won’t! Sue and Ken were lifelong residents of Rochester and so I came to know their extended family also.

In later years, when I went through a traumatic divorce, Sue was one of my strongest supporters. We had long conversations during that time and without a doubt, she was a strong influence in getting me back to my old self.

Even though we both moved away from that neighborhood, and eventually, Sue and Ken moved to Virginia, we still maintained our friendship. I last saw Sue 2 or 3 years ago. Their home in Virginia is not far from where my son and daughter-in-law live and so on one of my trips down there we all went over to visit. It was a very nice visit and I never imagined I would never see her in person again.

Sue was very devoted to her family. That was evident at her memorial service as two of the girls and each of the grandchildren spoke. The minister told Ken after the service that in his 30+ years as a pastor, he had never seen such a heartwarming memorial service.

Sue will always be remembered for her laughter, her sense of humor, and her strong sense of caring. Rest in peace, Sue.