italian fried rice

Isabella has been completely immersed in the world of Harry Potter lately. Her curiosity began just before Mikey passed away. We watched the Sorcer’s Stone as one of our pizza and movie night treats. It whet her appetite, and all she wanted from that point on was to read the books.

Michael had promised to buy her the Sorcerer’s Stone as a reward if she finished her math summer study packet before we left for Cape Cod. They had been working on it together during the weekends when he was off from work. The night Michael died, I walked home to tell Isabella the news. She knew it in her heart, but had held out hope that I would return home to say he was okay. I knew that feeling. I held onto a shred of it as I sat in the ER, wishing desperately that it was all a dream.

After we talked in the hallway, and went back in the house crowded with friends and family, Isabella asked me what would happen with her homework packet. I unapologetically said “screw the homework packet”. It wasn’t the proper thing to say, nor appropriate language for an 8 year old to hear, but that’s exactly how I felt. She worried what her teachers would say, and I assured her they would understand.

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lemon thyme & hummus egg salad

If you had asked me a few weeks ago about egg salad, I probably would’ve smiled politely, then let my mind wander to thoughts of something I actually enjoy eating.

By now, you’ve probably realized I’m not finicky about my food choices. During my years at Gramercy Tavern and Alain Ducasse, I ate many foods I wouldn’t have ordered on my own. Some I enjoyed more than expected, and others I wish to never eat again—sweetbreads rank high on this list (please take note if I’m ever invited to dinner. I can’t even be polite and force a swallow).

I’ve tasted bear, at a diner in upstate New York no less—and pretty much every part of a lamb, except the genitals (vegetarians, my apologies if you’re feeling faint). I didn’t like lamb before that, and am finally coming forward to say I still don’t.

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instant turkey pot pie

Last night, after the final dishes were washed, the floors cleaned and leftovers stowed away, I settled in with the Sunday Times. Yes, I’m quite behind in reading, considering this was a Thursday evening and we’re talking about the past Sunday’s paper.

In the real estate section was an article about high-end assisted living communities for retirees. Watching your parents age is one of the toughest parts of growing up. It has weighed very heavily on the Mr., being an only-child, as to how we can help, considering his parents don’t have the means to spend thousands of dollars a month on a retirement community. We have our own financial future to ponder and college for two to plan for, as well.

This leaves the Mr. and I are at a crossroads. In their early 80s and hearing-impaired, they are legally deaf, we realized earlier this year that they are reaching a point at which they can’t live on their own much longer. Thankfully a caring neighbor set them up with a social worker, who in turn got them signed up for City Meals on Wheels. Cooking was always something done out of necessity, and the fact that my mother-in-law's arthritis now makes it difficult for her to even lift a pot, this has been a vital service. One puzzle piece in place.

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pickled jalapeno watermelon rind

Soothing waters.

Seagulls trying to steal our potato chips off the beach blanket.

Sand scratching between my toes.

Tomorrow is the big day. The one we wait for every year. The countdown really starts the moment our car rolls down the driveway onto Shore Road, and we wait another 365 days to return to North Truro.

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summer fest 2010: corn chowder & ice cream


Remember yesterday I mentioned the vacation countdown? Well, hope you don’t tire of hearing about it. Seems every day brings a new reason to need to get away. Today is the middle of week three of construction right outside our apartment. It’s necessary stuff—gas pipelines and sewer pipes. Don’t get wrong, I want them to do this work, lest our basement overflow, or even worse—my stove ceases to turn on (though I can turn out some pretty good stuff with a hot plate and convection oven if my back is against the wall).

So add loud trucks, bulldozers and a lot of dust and dirt to the list as reason #372 why an escape from city living is much needed.

There is a downside to vacation, though. 

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tomato jam, mozzarella & spinach panini

I should be sleeping, or at the very least showered and in my jammies since I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. The day starts with Isabella's 1st grade graduation and end of year party, before heading to my younger sister's highschool graduation in Pennsylvania. 

Oh, and there's two kids to wake in the morning, breakfast to be made, one lunch to be packed and much writing to be done before I hit the road to very likely get stuck in Jersey Shore traffic.

I feel pooped just thinking about it all. Yet, I'm here, getting ready to tell you about a sandwich I discovered a few months ago. It wasn't at a fancy restaurant, and didn't even require a trip to the island of Manhattan. In fact, my commute was all of 11 steps to the pantry.

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roasted chicken salad

Can we play true confession? I'll go first if it makes you feel more comfortable. My many years of Catholic school have trained me well for this moment. You might want to sit down too. The next sentence might come as a bit of a schocker.

I hated meat as a kid.

I don't really know how or when it started. All I remember is what happened the day my parents found my stash in what was supposed to be the compartment on the underside of the table to store the "leaf"—you know those things that make the tables longer for company.

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homemade pasta + 10-minute bolognese sauce

By now most of you know I’m a big supporter of local farmers’ markets. It’s where I do most of my shopping, including buying eggs, beef, chicken, pork and an assortment of in season fruit and vegetables. A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me on twitter how to know which produce was organic. It was a great question and one I hadn’t really considered myself until a year ago.

Before the tomato blight hit us in the northeast last year, it never occurred to me that those small family farms would use anything but organic farming methods, even if they can’t keep up with the paperwork or application fees required by the USDA to attain the official title of organic. Then I read an article about the blight. In it the owner of one of my favorite farm stands was quoted as saying he’d be using pesticides to treat his tomatoes.

I understand this from an economics point of view. Tomatoes are a huge crop for many of these local farms, and the prospect of losing an entire season of them could put some families in the poorhouse. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to buy one tomato from that stand last year. And gosh, I can tell you from seasons past, those tomatoes were so good.

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asparagus & arugula panzanella

Asparagus is akin to childhood—its season is fleeting and by time you realize how good you had it, the moment has passed. I especially like asparagus because it's a sure sign the growing season is gearing up. After a winter of root vegetables, the first glimmers of green stalks are like seeing old friends again.

Since spying it at Maxwell's Farm Stand a few weeks ago, we've enjoyed creamy lemon asparagus risotto every week. Then last Thursday, I decided we needed to add a new recipe to the mix.

Somewhere between waking up and dinner time, I began thinking about panzanella. It might have been the leftover mozzarella cheese in the fridge. Or, maybe it was the stale bread on the counter. I don't really know how it happened, but along the way I got the idea to make an Italian bread salad, usually reserved for tomato season months down the road.

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smashed brown potatoes + weekend brunch picks

Now that the Thanksgiving dishes are done, I have a few minutes to let you know my brunch picks for the weekend. The picture you’re looking at above is my version of hash browns using leftover mashed potatoes. Next week I’ll share my recipe for the best cranberry sauce ever. If you think the garnet-hued stuff is just for turkey day, this recipe will change your mind. I’m stocking up on cranberries and plan on canning some to give as holiday gifts this year.

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