Category Archives: Cooking Utensils

It’s About Everything

Yes, that’s life, as Frank Sinatra sang it. Many people concentrate on one facet, whether it be sports, math or English literature.

Youth is, indeed, wasted on the young. Older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser but in my case, it works. I had a great family and was taught so much.

When every experience from being bullied to volunteering for a soup kitchen line to cooking school, helping feral cats and adopting four rescues over the past twenty years, I had an education that rivaled my formal education and career. Yes, I also credit my two favorite priests, Fr. Cap and Fr. John, both gone now.

They wove meaning into the fabric of my life. I learned about how history and traditions make us who we are, to accept people we don’t know and, above all, respect, appreciation and honesty.

Through my parents, relatives, teachers and friends I’ve learned much. And my husband teaches me physics lessons while listening to country music on the car radio on long drives. Do you know what’s coming out of that smokestack? No, dear. I can tell by the color……….

Also, having a pet can make a difference. There’s a real responsibility and I’m shirking mine now as I’ve taken her out for “last chance” and she is not by my side. She wants me to lift her up to the bed for her beauty sleep. She’s gorgeous and just turned 84 in people years. She has no hips so cannot jump up by herself. If I slept 20 hours a day I might look that good.

A pet is a grounding experience, especially without a child. So is music, the written word, writing a blog or Haiku or poems.

My husband’s gone for work but I still read cookbooks and make my own recipes and wish for him to come home soon to try them. Yes, my hobbies are cooking, writing and shelter pets/feral cats (spay/neuter). I have had perhaps my last shelter pet, hopefully not, because a dog gets me out to walk and meet people and other dogs. Zoe is old but fine.

Life is about everything and how playing touch football on a dead-end street or softball in our back yard was so special as a kid. The neighborhood kids called on us early and asked for Dad. Mom said they had to wait until the end of dinner. Dad’s only rule was that everyone got to play and play fair. I remember one kid picking up his little brother and running him from first to second base, a tree, and home (we didn’t have that much space) and everybody won because were all the home team. Even toddlers got to play on Dad’s team.

Honesty, integrity, a sense of fairness for everyone, life is about everything. Cheers to you and your family, Dee


New Cooks

I don’t care if you’re 11 and want to become a chef, or if you’re about to be a new bride who can’t boil water for tea.

Sit at a dinner table with your parents. Listen to their day, politics and how to ease the tension as it goes to dinner and kids. The family dinner was a given in my immediate family. Now, yesterday, my 12 year-old dog stole food from my plate while I was eating. That’s a big NO!

When my family went on vacation somewhere we usually met other family who brought food for “room picnics.” Dad hated this but I thought it an unusual endeavor that I’d be able to do as a grown-up.

Then we started talking about food at every meal. That really irked Dad. What are we going to eat next?

I went to two cooking schools, one in NYC and one in Italy. Dad always made us pancakes after Mass. He now cooks Italian food. My brother and I taught him how to learn to cook. It is probably the best gift I’ve given both.

It is a pleasure to put Dad on record for learning to paint and cook after age 80. I love him dearly. Dee


I’ve always had it in me. Sorry, younger siblings. I was only there to protect you. It came out when I was writing legislation to help millions of people. Then, when I chose to volunteer.

My parents never fought, just divorced after 35 years of marriage. It was understood that nothing was ever discussed. A cheek kiss at the door, how was your day, dear, and talk of work at the dinner table. Then we each had to ask to be excused from the table to do our homework.

Parents did instill a 100% effective right/wrong meter as to ethics. I did less than exemplary fighting for crime victim rights and gay rights and privacy in my 20’s because of being stymied by larger forces. In my mid-thirties I took on a volunteer fight that made me grow and helped fellow citizens.

Fight from the heart. Use words, not weapons. When needed, get involved. I’ve pulled a dog with his jaws on mine off, all advice unheeded, he had no collar much less a leash, and we both lived to tell the tale. Re: that pit bull, they never apologized or said they’d pay for vet fees, only said he was going back to Mexico and would never be in our park again.

Yes, I fought. I got that pit bull off my dog by the neck skin and held him. When you fight for anything, for rights, a bill in Congress, or your life, you fight. I will never use or carry a weapon. Words. Actions. Life. Live it as I protect my family, Dee

ps I do have an arsenal of knives, as a cook. I treat them like babies and they look great up on the magnetic rack. Never do I take one outside. Only small scissors to trim our communal herb garden. d

Cooks and Garnishes

I made a perfect steak the other night. I was inside doing baked potatoes and such but seasoned the steaks and my husband did not overcook them. He knows better now that when there’s a wonderful meal on his plate not to douse it in H-P or A-1 sauce.

Come morning when there is a bit of steak left I cook it with his eggs and then he can have sauce with it. I was horrified years ago the first time he asked for sauce.

When I bring something to the table I have tasted it and make sure it is seasoned correctly, which is why I never have salt or pepper on the table. It really hurts my feelings when someone takes a perfectly cooked steak and asks for steak sauce to drown it and lose all the flavor I imparted into that steak.

As for garnishes, forget the parsley “trees” as I asked the butcher for as a kid because I’d never seen a fresh herb before. Only use something that enhances and, at a cocktail party, identifies what is in the dish. My husband is deathly allergic to anything that swims and I failed once to place a little crisscross of salmon over a salmon mousse, only a sprig of dill, and ended up running to get him antihistamines as he brushed his teeth.

If you’ve a pasta dish with cheese, garnish it with that cheese and also basil if basil is in the sauce. When I make a chicken liver mousse with apple and walnuts I place a decorative slice of apple on top with a walnut to make sure those who are allergic to nuts know what is in the dish.

On the slightly crazy side I do know how to make frills of parchment paper. Say I french a rack of lamb leaving only the “lollipop” if I cook it in a hot oven or grill I can make parchment paper “frills” for the tops of the bones. Make them and attach after they cook, while they’re resting.

I always wondered why Julia Child’s turkeys et al always had frills. Perhaps hers were made professionally by food stylists but I can make my own and would love to teach an artistic child to marinate and grill that lamb and while it’s cooking, make parchment frills to surprise his/her parents at dinner.

No foams. No immersion circulators. No room in my kitchen and I’ll stick to old school. We just thought outside the box and sent a friend who got married this weekend a key set of my favorite kitchen tools. They are purposeful but many cooks will not have them so we hope they appreciate the care we put into these varied selections. Congratulations and best wishes, you two! Cheers, Dee


and the South, of course. Of late I’ve availed myself of other than my treasured cookbooks, gone back to at least my husband’s old favorites and become in a cooking rut.

I love to learn new-to-me recipes from people like Trisha Yearwood and Ree Drummond as they seem to really cook and have a passion for new and old family recipes. My husband is born & bred Texas, a farm boy who loves his meat and potatoes.

He was sick last weekend and recuperating after a long week so I’d like to make him a surprise. Yesterday I tried Trisha’s biscuits and though I’m a trained cook they didn’t turn out so well. They taste great but I had to use buttermilk powder and that may not have worked. The flour and veg shortening came together well but I had to add extra milk. They kind of looked like hockey pucks.

Immediately after they cooled I placed them in a sealed bag in the freezer. What I plan to do for breakfast is a toasted (unfrozen) biscuit with a sausage patty and egg, with cream gravy.

Thanks to this morning’s show with Ree I know making white gravy is as easy as falling off a horse – I know because been there, done that. And I make bechamel a few times a year, but hopefully “Pickles” is finally gone now after decades and throwing me across a creek then tossing me into a sandbox and running home, sending a dinner party to see if I was OK while only my pride was struck, and I never rode again.

A lifelong animal lover who worked over 20 years in shelters and spay/neuter clinics horses sense my fear. I did get over it this past year in part, petting the largest horse I’ve ever met, a Percheron. Percherons were sent into war because they were so large and intimidating. Next is getting me to ride a horse. Perhaps this year.

Hopefully my husband won’t read this today because we have to get two things today, a utensil (under $5) that I’ve wanted for years, and raw frozen dog food. OK, then I’m going for groceries alone.

For dinner, I’m taking him back to TX with my first-ever chicken fried steak, my garlic mashed potatoes, and perhaps an arugula salad with grated black beet on top with a vinaigrette to be named later. Ree, let me hit a home run on this one.

A tip for cooks everywhere. You’ll probably see staff in the produce department. Ask them questions. Get to know your butchers (I can’t get to know my fishmongers because my husband is deathly allergic to anything that swims so I can’t even cook fish at home). If there is a cheese department get to know them and your shopping will be easy. You’ll only have to go into the inner aisles for things like olive oil, rice, soy sauce, jam, flour and sugar.

For those who celebrate Easter, and every reader, enjoy this day. Dee


Notes and Logs

I always keep a notepad around, no, not a computer.

One of my best ideas came to me at three o’clock in the morning. I awakened with it so had to run down a ladder to write it down. It was an event of exponential proportions that cost us nothing as I got the funding. We saved a kids program, helped an orphanage, kick-started kids lessons, got free press and benefited both kids and Shakespeare-loving people. Development, audience development, full house for kids’ production. All for $2,400. Plus a tree, kid-decorated ornaments and a menorah, electric, lest folks yell fire in a theater.

This year I’ve three paper ornaments made by local children from the aforementioned event I created over 20 years ago.. I’ve never had a tree before but when I saw a painted tagboard ornament addressed to me saying “Love, Helen”I cried.

Which brings me to logs. I am starting one today because it will take 31 days to get our nearly ten-year old dog to our regular vet for a bordatella shot now due and blood panel that was recommended at the beginning of the year, She has been for two annuals and has no health problems since she was last examined, but I think she may have issues.

So, I’ll keep a log of what she eats, eliminates, sleep patterns. She’s a great sleeper even at six weeks of age and will be ten years next month.

I took an hourly log of my cat M. I adopted him at nine weeks from the shelterat which I volunteered  He crawled into my old dog’s bed and they were inseparable for a year. One day he was acting strange. I felt his head and it was hot (after that I was one of the first graduated or the HSUS/Red Cross pet emergency team) so I ran him off to the vet early in the morning after calling to say something is amiss.

We were there in minutes. For three days I had to pick him up from there and take him to an overnight vet. I called in for his temp as I knew they took it every hour, helped them get him into an ice bath and onto a towel over an ice pack. For three days I monitored his temperature. Nothing showed up on the blood tests, and in the end they had him on antibiotics but said they didn’t understand it at all.

They gave me instructions to get a rectal thermometer and take his temperature every hour but that he hated them so get him out of here asap! I did, had an ER nurse friend who took his temp once and said forget trying again. The next morning he was chasing crumpled post-it notes diving over the sofa and delivering them at my feet while I worked. Yes, a cat who fetched. His idea.

The key was the log. I would visit him at the overnight clinic where the vets looked young enough to be my kids. Every hour I hand-wrote a chart with visits, calls and temps. Whenever I visited and held him, his temperature went down two degrees. Amazing! Why didn’t they let me take him home?

When you deal with older pets, parents, sick siblings or friends, remember that being there, presence and touch is important. It lets them know that you are there for them, and if they leave you will remember them.

Sadly M disappeared. He liked dogs and the outdoors and dogs used to run away to visit him. I think coyotes finally figured a way to lure him out of his tree house.

N (gift of God) , my first cat since he was five weeks old was a Burmese talker who always had the last word until he was struck with pneumonia atop chronic heart failure. I held him for a while and his spirit went to a good place and helped me do so as well.

C, my dear abused rescue dog, rescued me.  Afraid of men, uniforms (she was abused by a deputy sheriff) and children who threw rocks at her and her brother, even at a no-kill shelter there are limits. I was advised by a fellow volunteer turned staffer that a call to put her down had been delayed for one week by one of my favorite adoption staffers ever. She knew something good would happen.

I had my rescue dog home the next day, after visiting her even in a neck brace every week for a year, and we trained. Food, scariness, uniforms, hats, men, children; professional, personal and group training.  After ten years together when she died I had to go through to the park via the bushes and all the kids would call her name and run out to pet her, and I had to take her best friend behind the bushes and tell him she was gone. It was tough for both of us because he was probably seven and I said she was gone, As a guy of course he demanded to know all the gory detais. He cried and I told him to make up a story for his older brother of something he’d done for which Ms. Dee had to yell at him.

Oh, hi, Dee was all I got from the kids from then on. It was one of the hardest things in my life to go out to our park the afternoon after she died. Neighbors had her ashes separated and placed in a container, gave me a collage of her photos and placed some her ashes in the only stuffed animal she ever brought to the park, as she wanted to say goodbye. She didn’t want me to know. They donated to the city a tree in her memory, and we held a watering ceremony attended by dear friends, park staff and foundation members.

In the month it takes for my new (we’ve had her nearly ten years) dog to get a vet appointment my dear husband is a computer guy but as for N, heaven rest his soul, and Zoe now, I am depending upon an old-fashioned unreadable (except by me) handwritten log of everything regarding Z. Unless she really gets sick. Don’t worry, I can always find a new vet. There’s something of an Aggie network. Davis is OK too. Lengthy, indeed. Dee

First Tree

As an adult, I’ve never had a Christmas tree. I always had a wreath for the front door with some favorite ornaments. We kids each got an ornament every year and they were packed up at age 18 to take off to college.

My husband of nearly 11 years and I have never had a tree. He says he is allergic. So we only needed to buy a tabletop tree, three feet high.

On it are so many memories and not even ones from childhood but for my husband and my time together. There’s Santa in a kilt from Scotland, a snowman with lasso from Texas, a tiny mouse sleeping in a walnut shell as an homage to my dear friend Mrs. H.

There are airplanes from an Oshkosh museum, our first ornaments I got for us before we were married, faded green and blue painted wooden stockings. There’s a recycled glass star from the EcoCenter in Park City. and cardboard ornaments from an event I created 20 years ago called Kids for Kids.

Of course there are cooking-related ornaments, including a reindeer carrying a tray of cookies, a whisk and others. Then there are swirly tin ornaments that catch the light and were handmade in Vermont where we spent some time with my husband’s parents.

I had the lights and ornaments and it’s beautiful. I’d send a photo but my camera is out of batteries. Perhaps tomorrow? We also have two stockings, one with an angel and the other a male Cardinal.

As my husband has already gotten his birthday and Christmas presents I gave him cards as well, one from me stating that the Internet is where Grammar Goes to Die, another from the dog saying “Feed Me Already.”

I also have coasters and a crocheted perfectly starched family of snow people from my m-i-l. And we didn’t need a wreath. I have two jingle bell wreaths. The gold and silver one is outside our front door with a few ornaments, and the red and white one is inside the front door with a few more ornaments.

There’s nothing like a “free” Christmas! We don’t buy gifts, and will need to go to a few holiday parties but this is one to celebrate. We’re here, we’re alive and both nearly well. And husband Jim isn’t allergic to the tree… yet. Neither of us can smell it yet as he’s been kind enough to give me his cold. Cheers! Dee

ps If there’s enough adult in me to obtain and decorate a tree, perhaps next year I’ll try making prime rib, roasted potatoes, lots of veg (that was what I was in charge of in past years) and Yorkshire pudding. Plus mincemeat tarts and trifle. D

What Would I Do?

No-one would say a million these days. Let’s say I played the Powerball lottery and perchance won $82 million.

What would I do? What would you do? First things first, tell my husband. Then this is about me and what I would want. This is my fantasy, not his.

First I’d bankroll a start-up for anything my husband wishes to do. Then I’d make sure every child in our family gets a college education and do with it what they wish after graduation.

I would rent a home somewhere in some mountains while we buy land and build our dream home. It would be small (2/2) and simple with a three car garage (one space for guests and enough room for a tool shed and gardening table) and heated garage and driveway.

Out back would be a MIL flat fitted behind the walls with disabled access devices (think rails in bathroom) prepared for but not installed, with room for at least six guests that would be annexed to Jim’s home work place and perhaps  a writing place for me, but I’d really prefer a nook off the kitchen with old file storage elsewhere, as I pay the bills and want to hear noise before something boils over, starts to burn or if the dog needs anything.

I’d get a team together that covers legal, financial, administrative, home and other needs. I would start a foundation that would help children and animals and encourage girls to study math and science, also have all parents involved in the education of their children. Spay and neuter pets and ferals. And probably human/civil rights that keep the NSA from reading this email because their initials are in it. Thanks for reading! Say hi to your folks in Utah!

Travel is definitely on the itinerary, for educational purposes. if it wasn’t for TSA tagging me as the terrorist grandma every time I fly while my husband stands aside luckily holding my purse, laptop and passport awaiting my fate before going to the gate, I’d fly more often. Ye gads, imagine 20 years from now and they take my wheelchair apart and lay me out on the floor while they disassemble it and leave it to me, on the floor, helpless, to put it back together.

So sorry an agent got killed this week. That sad incident should have never happened but it really makes me not want to fly over Thanksgiving but we do have a flight. I’m sure that they are going to triple down at TSA over the holidays. Let’s just hope I don’t get taken to that “special room.”

Yes, last time I flew they needed to pat me down after the naked scanner. They asked if I wanted a special room and I said no, let all 2,000 people walking by see you feeling my breasts and crotch so they know what they’re about to discover is yet to come. Then the first TSA woman left without explanation and I stepped off the pad and two TSA agents stepped up out of nowhere ready to beat or tase me and told me to stay put. The first agent was looking for bomb residue on my hands. Of course there was none. I think they may have been putting on a show for their bosses and I was the victim that time. My husband went through with TX BBQ on dry ice, no problem.

I will add access to a private jet to my fantasy list. Yes, I’d put my husband through flight school and perhaps buy him a small plane. This is for you, dear!

Nothing for the dog. Perhaps another $35 collar for a “wardrobe.” She’s happy as is. Ours would be the rural home to which every stray/feral would visit. That is my dream as well as we cannot have a cat indoors (husband’s allergies).  I would build a warm/cool, interesting facility for them outdoors, as I miss seeing them and I’m glad this dog person, 25 years ago, became a cat person as well.  Wishful thinking, indeed,

I was taught to reach to meet my destiny by one parent, and to stop and consider my limitations by the other. It certainly has been a path, unique by any standards but next I get to tell you about our place and how that will change the world! Dee

Canadaway Creek

This past year I had a photo framed. I bought it at a fund-raiser for an educational institution. It is by an esteemed writer, editor and photographer who is now gone, dated 1982.

It was of the creek I grew up on, climbed down a cliff to get to, caught crawdads and didn’t even think of cooking them, had black snakes thrown at me by neighbors and cherry bombs tossed in the back of my shirt. We also made hay forts (boys vs. girls), swam, played in the sand and learned a bit about horses.

And I read. At age eight I read Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther and The Diary of Anne Frank. I learned a lot in those years.

My favorite time was going down the 100′ rope my grandfather made, by myself and exploring what I called the “enchanted forest.” There were colored leaves on the ground, it was silent and I could gather my thoughts before being called up to dinner.

Celebrated singer and friend Juni Fisher wrote a song about the Mockingbird call which is what her mother used when she was lost in the woods. My mom’s was a car horn beeped three times but when Juni sang it for Nanny a few years ago there was a resonance of being called home.

I’ve told my husband to scatter my ashes in the enchanted forest. It is where I learned to live so framing this photo and making it a focus in our home is important to me. I took a picture of the framed photo and sent it to her daughter.

I believe that when you do good and others do evil, what comes around goes around. Maybe not in this lifetime. Learn something every day, do good things like adopting from your local animal shelter, and be happy. Dee

So-So Soup

My roasted curry butternut squash soup is velvety and everyone seems to like it. Not wanting to go to the grocery today as I’m still watching over the dog and washing her bath towels like mad, I took a bag of carrots and roasted them.

I placed them in the food processor with chicken broth, then in a pot and added some half-and-half. While doing that I did toast some hot curry powder in a dry pan until our home smelled of India.

It ended up grainy, not with chunks but grains of carrot. It was tasty and spicy but next time I’ll put it in the blender for a more uniform consistency. Live and learn. Carrots are much more difficult than squash.

Oh, the dog is better, though I’m still keeping an eye on her as she is sleeping more than usual. I blamed myself for giving her hamburger, then finally my husband said that while he was talking to someone on a walk she may have eaten something dead from the sidewalk or path. That would explain things. She’s not going to die, at least not now. Thanks for reading! 74 posts until retirement! Dee