tetrazzini with a twist

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My mom was a great cook. Is a great cook I should say, as she’s very much alive. I guess I say “was” because I’m referring more to my childhood. Other than my (still current) aversion to the lime ooze called split pea soup, I loved everything she cooked. I never thought about it much as a kid, but it was always new stuff, never like “meatloaf Thursday” or anything like that. Of course we had our favorites but she always kept it interesting and delicious. We entertained a lot, and something else I didn’t realize as a kid, mom was great at it. She had a plethora of dishes and depending on the menu, she would send us down into the basement or rooting through the antique pie safe/dish cabinet to get the right dishes for the occasion. If we were having Mexican, we’d get out the clear glass drinking goblets with the green stems, the white plates with the bright multicolored striped border, and if it was really special company, we’d even get out the fancy silverware and polish it. I guess that’s where I get my love of setting the table, cooking, and all things “hostessy”. But my favorite thing about having company? Mom’s chicken tetrazzini. It was a treat because she only made it for company so there was something fancy and special about it, and obviously yummy. So today as I was rummaging through my kitchen trying to see what ingredients I could throw together for dinner I happened upon some broccoli florets on the freezer, then a box of whole wheat pasta in the pantry and “ding!”, tetrazzini! So after a quick phone call to mom to verify her recipe and method, I got to work. My version was a little different than hers, mainly to due to ingredients on hand, but that’s what’s great about passing on recipes, it’s like whisper down the lane. Here’s what I used…

Ingredients
1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti (I think I’ll try it with quinoa pasta next time but I didn’t have any in the pantry)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 chicken breasts
1/2 c milk
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 c*broccoli florets
2 c sliced mushrooms
S&P
*as usual with me, most of these measurements are an approximation so a little more, a little less, you’ll be fine.

Preheat oven to 375 then boil pasta. Meanwhile, dice the chicken and after seasoning it with a little s&p sauté it in some olive oil and chopped garlic. Add broccoli and mushrooms, cook till heated through. Put cream of mushroom soup and milk into bowl and stir together then put a thin layer on bottom of casserole dish. Layer spaghetti in pan then chicken mixture and top with cream sauce and grated Parmesan. Repeat until you’re out of ingredients. Put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remember, everything is cooked so you’re really just making sure all the ingredients are heated through and the cheese is melted. That’s pretty much it. This recipe makes a pretty large portion so for us that means lots of tetrazzini leftovers which is fine by me! I’m sure the butcher won’t mind either since he THOROUGHLY enjoyed this recipe. Thanks mom!

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Sunday Style…thrift store transformation edition

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I found this lovely vintage frock for, you heard it right, A DOLLAR at a thrift shop. Even though I’m always up for a cute shirt dress, this particular one wasn’t very BBF (big bosom friendly) but I still loved the pattern, length, and comfy cotton feel. So I decided to make it into a midi skirt! Now, if you have any sewing skills at all then this is most likely a very simple project. But although I DO own a very lovely sewing machine…well…to quote Cosmo from Moonstruck, “I don’t wanna talk about it!” so…I decided to take it to my reliable local seamstress Liz. If you live in the area and would like her info let me know, she works out of her home, is the sweetest woman, and does impeccable and affordable work on both men’s and women’s clothing. She cut the top off the dress, put some elastic in the waist of the skirt according to my measurements and, voila, a brand new skirt! ( I feel like I say “voila” quite a bit in my posts, who knew I was such a fan of that word?!) Next time you see something you like but it just doesn’t quite work, get it anyway and try to do a thrift store transformation!

Don’t throw that mascara away!

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Don’t you hate when you get to what seems to be the bottom of your mascara tube and think to yourself, “I JUST bought this!”? This happened to me recently and with my favorite mascara, Benefit’s They’re Real, which is a bit pricey so I wanted to get my money’s worth! When I was younger my mom taught me to pour a little nail polish remover into a bottle of polish that was getting old and glumpy. It thinned out the nail polish back to it’s perfect consistency every time. So I thought, why couldn’t I apply that same trick to my mascara? Not with polish remover obviously, talk about an optometrist’s nightmare! It’s impossible to see down that tiny little black tube so I would need some sort of eye dropper…and commence epiphany! Eye drops! What could be a better pairing for mascara?! So I put in a few drops of my contact friendly visible, shook/stirred it up and…the mascara that I thought was a dried up goner was brand new again! I can’t tell you how long exactly this extended the life of the mascara because I’m STILL using it! And as an added bonus, I’m pretty sure it’s even helped make my contacts less sensitive to my eye makeup! You gotta try this!

Tea Time

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Yesterday we went to one of my favorite places for the very last time. The garden gate tea room, a lovely little hidden gem in the small historic town of Mt. Dora, Florida is closing this week. The tea, the atmosphere, the carrot bisque, the decor, and the chicken pie were truly something special. We dressed up for the occasion and did tea right! I wore my eyelet lace dress with my crinoline underneath, black gloves, and my great grandmothers felt feather hat from the 30’s. The other girls were all dressed up beautifully as well, we were quite the smart looking group. Hopefully they will reopen their doors somewhere nearby but until then I am determined to recreate the chicken pie recipe since they refused to give it to me! Here’s some pictures from our “last supper”…er, tea.

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Hands Free Raw Chicken

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Many people are totally grossed out by touching and preparing raw chicken. It doesn’t particularly bother me, but then again I am a butcher’s wife. I like to buy my chicken in bulk and cut it up into various forms, diced, cutlet, etc and freeze them in individual bags so they when I need it for a certain meal, it’s already done. Once I’m finished cutting it though and I’m ready to store it, I wash my hands and don’t necessarily want to touch it again and get all those salmonella germs on everything. So I started to take a ziploc bag, invert it over my hand as a sort of glove and pick up the chicken. Once it’s all in the bag I can grab the sides of the bag (because my hands are still clean!) and pull them up and over to turn the bag right side out. Seal it up and voila, you’ve got hands free raw chicken!* Did you notice that my cutting board is yellow? Perhaps you’ve noticed different color cutting boards before but never thought about their functionality. This is a trick used by chefs so they can keep their boards straight and avoid cross contamination. Yellow=poultry, Red=beef, Blue=Seafood, and Green=Produce. Ya learn something new every day! Unless you already knew that, in which case, go get a dictionary and learn a new word or something.
*it behooves me to note although it may be somewhat gross timing…that this is also a great method for picking up doggy poop.

Pop Pop

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A pop pop is someone that not every girl is fortunate enough to have. I was one of those girls. Even though I have a living grandparent on either side, they were never your typical grandparents. The kind that live nearby, you can go to their house and play, explore all their trinkets, listen to stories, and do puzzles. The kind every kid deserves. But because, as one of my favorite sayings goes, “friends are family you choose yourself”, my parents chose wisely and at a very young age I got myself a mom mom, aunt, uncle, cousins, and, a pop pop. The only real pop pop I ever had. I remember going to their house as a little kid and there was this room downstairs that nobody ever used (as I think is the case in most grandparent’s homes) and on a table was an old picture of mom mom and pop pop, I think their wedding picture. He was in his army uniform and was so young and handsome. I remember looking at it often in disbelief that it was him because he looked so different and now wore a different kind of uniform; a white undershirt, tan shorts, and very tall white socks. I don’t know that I ever saw him wear anything else but that, other than a suit and tie. I know I asked him about the picture and I’m sure he told me stories (most of which probably weren’t true, he was a big jokester and I could never tell when he was serious!) but I don’t remember those. Just the picture. And the way the room smelled. They say that due to words like amygdala and hippocampus (which I’m pretty sure are completely made up) our sense of smell is one of the biggest emotional triggers in our brain and can instantly transport us somewhere. (In this case “they” is nbc.com, pretty cool article check it out here) This particular room was off of the garage and had a faint, somehow comforting, smell of gasoline. They had a front door but we never used it, we always came in through the garage. So to this day, the smell of gasoline reminds me of that house and makes me smile. In fact, I still smell it when I walk into my Uncle David’s house (also through the garage) I guess like father, like son. One year in maybe second or third grade I got terrible heat stroke and passed out in the nurse’s office. I guess they couldn’t get ahold of mom and dad at work because next thing I knew, Pop Pop, who was listed as my emergency contact, came to get me. He set me up on the silky couch in the front room upstairs (the house was divided up in a very strange way but was excellent for hide and seek), gave me ginger ale, and let me fall asleep on him. We loved swimming at their house and I remember sitting at the kitchen counter eating an egg salad sandwich and talking to him as I waited my 30 minutes to go in the water. (Mom mom did not mess around with that rule!) I’ll never forget the sign he had posted on the pool, “We don’t swim in your toilet so don’t pee in our pool!” It captured his sense of humor perfectly. He had a plethora of corny jokes on hand at all times, most of which my father has adopted, and one of his favorite lines after a big meal was, “That ruined my appetite.” I used to rub his shoulders and he’d say, “I’ll give you an hour to stop”. I never really got it as a kid but I chuckle now as I think back on it. He loved his live-in mother-in-law but showed it by torturing her on a daily basis. He affectionately called her “gross mother” which in German means large or great, but I guess because she was technically a great-grandmother and German, he thought he was getting away with something pretty funny hiding behind a foreign nickname. He was jovial and kind and I never heard him raise his voice or say an unkind word. He loved his family and especially his grandchildren, lovingly including my sister and I among them. Even though as long as I knew him he was retired, I never saw someone work harder. He was incapable of sitting still and always had some project to work on. Even when we rented a beach house in the outer banks, he brought his tools and was fixing things around the house. He didn’t stop for anything, when my cousin Alex was a baby he would multitask by strapping him to his chest in his little baby bjorn and taking him for a ride on the rider mower as he cut the grass. It put him to sleep every time! As I got older I didn’t spend as much time with them as teenagers often do, and as his mind started to slip over the past few years I don’t think he knew who I was the last time I saw him. But he still had that mischievous twinkle in his eye and though he couldn’t remember my name, I think he knew that he was my pop pop. He passed away on Friday night and even though we are all so sad to lose him, very soon we’ll see him again but this time, he’ll look like that young man in the picture again.

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Upcycled Patio Furniture

As you know, we recently got our patio poured so I’ve been “upcycling” some outdoor furniture to adorn it! The orangish chair is several years old from IKEA and the wrought iron (side note: for the better part of my life I thought it was “rod iron”. I mean think about it, doesn’t that just make more sense?!) side table and coffee table I got for FREE on the side of the road, a neighbor was getting rid of them, glass in tact and everything! Don’t be scared of yucky rusty furniture, outdoor spray paint these days is full of primers and rust repellents and all you need is a sturdy wire brush to clean it up! A few cans of spray paint later and I have some brand new looking patio furniture that compliments my red,yellow, and turquoise color scheme perfectly!
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