Friday, July 31, 2009

Tell Them That You LOVE Them

Momma was talking on the phone with one of her daughters about a stressfull situation, when we were ready to end the call, Momma said," I LOVE you, you are a great kid!" My daughter paused and I could hear the joy in her voice when she said, "Thanks, I love you too."

Momma Explains: As parents we may not be able to solve every problem our children have or advise on each situations. We may not be able to bail them out of financial difficulties or heal all their wounds BUT we can and should always offer them our unconditional LOVE. That does not mean there will not be times when we are at odds or angry with one another. but the LOVE, it just keeps on giving and rising above a situation. There have been many occasions when I had to suffer the limits of my own humanity and watch my children plow through pain or stress, but it is true that those tough times can really make you resourceful and stronger. Most importantly at difficult times in anyone's life, offer prayer and love. That is a very powerful combination.
We also need to remember to tell people that WE LOVE THEM. Do you really ever get tired of hearing about being loved? I hope each of you will turn to someone today, smile and say, " Hey, I love you, you are great !" Then see how much joy and positive self esteem you produced with such a simple act of love.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lyme time, a threat to all

Momma noticed a bulls eye rash on her arm. What caused this?

Momma Explains: It seems Lyme disease is the culprit and it is very debilitating.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected black legged ticks( also known as deer ticks). Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.Poppa has already had Lyme disease twice so this is a problem in out community. I do not know how I received the tick bite as I do not wander into the woods near our house nor do I do yard work. We do however, have a herd of deer that enter our yard and roam the neighborhood. Bambi is NOT my friend and I am convinced that the board of health needs to address the growing, unchecked deer population in our area. Neighbors have put up fences, as high as 6 feet but the deer nimbly leap over them. Most sprays to discourage deer are noxious to other animals and pets so their use is a concern. Any spray to destroy ticks also contains a chemical that must be treated with caution. The human population is at the mercy of the wild and I have objections to that situation. I believe there are multiple communities that have been invaded by increasing deer population, they destroy plants, vegetables and pose a health risk. The deer have no natural predator unless you count cars . The rapid expansion of the deer families in our neighborhood is very obvious and I worry what will happen if left to continue. It is time the wild life control took action and at least removed the deer from developments and neighborhoods. If I caught Lyme disease without engaging in the activities that are at risk, then any one could be bitten and infected. Since the disease symptoms mimics other disease symptoms, it is often misdiagnosed and serious complications occur. Momma was lucky that she presented with the rash otherwise I would never have thought I had Lyme. Please be cautious in your excursions. Use insect repellent and be vigilant for ticks on yourself and pets. This is not to be taken lightly.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cilantro Chicken

Momma knows chosing wine and food recipes can be daunting so she has a little tip to ease your cares.

Momma Explains: Wine is an agricultural product, a gift from the grape and each grape reflects the Terroir, or agricultural site on which it was grown. The same grape will taste differently depending on the place it is grown. There is a difference between a cabernet from the Bordeaux region of France versus the Napa Valley of California. Produce reflects the climate, soil and conditions in which it is grown. So what has that got to do with food and wine pairing? Ah, think, you are in Italy at that Villa with the lemon trees in the front yard. There are olive groves further back behind the house and on the mountain slope, there is the vineyard. In the back yard are the tomatoes, basil and peppers. You are making a simple marinara sauce for dinner with some roated peppers and cheese. You sqeeze some lemons and heat their juice with sugar and water to form a simple syrup which you freeze after whipping to be enjoyed as an iced dessert. The lemons, the tomatoes, the peppers, the grapes all are indigenous to the nearby land. Now, what will you serve with your macaroni, some local sausage? Yes, of course but then would you serve a New Zealand white with dinner?? What are you nuts, stupido ? The meal has a perfect accompaniment in that the same land that produced a delicious marinara will also offer a great red to enhance the meal.
There are many other ways to find the perfect wine with your food but in a pinch, if you are making Mexican serve a Spanish wine, Italian pasta serve an Italian wine and so on. It is a quick way to use the land as your guide. Which is why I use a Spanish red, to enhance my cilantro chicken.

Cilantro Chicken: Take 6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless will work if you use lots of olive oil. Otherwise you can use breasts with the skin and bone intact. I used boneless breasts and poured olive oil over all of them so that 3/4 the breast was covered in olive oil. I then sprinkled sea salt, black pepper, paprika and granulated garlic on each side. I topped the chicken with several bunches of Cilantro. (Momma grows her own herbs, it saves time , money and tastes great. You should buy some potted herbs and use them all summer. ) A sprinkle of lemon zest and about 1/2 the juice of a lemon will completes the dressing. Then bake till cooked. I usually bake about 50 minutes at 350 but you need to check them for doneness. I served this with Mercedes Eguren 2005 or 2006 Shyraz/ Tempranillo. ( Yes they spelled Shiraz that way), boy did the whole meal just melt into a delicious fiesta. We drank all the wine too!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prayer for those seeking employment

Momma has many requests for prayers, some are for healing, some for wisdom, some for comfort but lately, many are for employment.

Momma Explains and Prays: I am a big believer in prayer, a small prayer, a long prayer , in community or in solitude, prayer is my way of reaching out of myself and toward a higher plain. It is a comfort and solace, an invitation and celebration. Prayer is our communication with the God who made us.

Lately, many friends, family and acquaintances have asked for prayers to aid in their search for a job. I add each one to my requests. Since the economy is very challenging at this time and many are frightened and concerned for their future, I offer the following prayer from Catholic Prayers. It really speaks to all hearts no matter their church affiliation. I hope it will bring comfort to many of you who are suffering in this economic clime. God's peace and direction be yours.

Prayer for Job Seeker
Gracious and loving God, you know our need for meaningful work. Send your Holy Spirit to guide those who are searching for employment. Help them to recognize the gifts and talents you have given them.
Deepen their desire to follow your will. Inspire them as they contact potential employers. Give them patience as they wait for responses. Shelter them from feelings of rejection. Protect them from discouragement. Give them courage to overcome fear.
Shower on them the graces they need to persevere. Let this time of searching become an opportunity to grow in faith, to cultivate the virtue of hope, and to experience your healing love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Momma's Tenderloin Marinade

Momma loves a good steak and she usually marinates all cuts, even the expensive ones. They just need a lot less time.

Momma Explains: The better the cut of meat, the less time you need to tenderize it. However most beef benefits from some marinating and here is one of my favorite methods. It works for most beef steaks and I serve the delicious Greg Norman, Cabernet Merlot, 2006, Limestone Coast. It is a great, well balanced wine, but needs a bit of time to open up. That means you chill the wine then pour it off into glasses about 20 minutes before serving. It really lets the fruit and spice flavors out by sitting awhile in the glass. My marinade is very simple.
Momma's Beef Marinade: You will need to cover most of the meat so use the following ratio as needed for most of the steaks to be covered 4/5 of the way. In a large bowl pour about 1/2 cup good red wine. I often use the wine I will be serving. Add three cans of Coca Cola ( Less wine, coke and spices if you do not have a large amount of meat) . Then add 4-5 gloves of garlic minced or pressed. ( I prefer pressed) , add about 1 teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of oregano. The better quality meats only need a short period of time,( 30 minutes), the tougher cuts need more time and you can soak then for up to 24 hours. If you want to marinate longer, add equal parts wine and coke as the wine will preserve the meat. Stir marinade and drop in meat. The meat should be covered, if it is not, add more coca cola. I use the name brand Coca Cola, don't cheat with the less expensive soda, it changes the chemistry. When you are ready to grill or cook in the broiler, take the meat out of the marinade and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and a bit of garlic powder or minced garlic. I discard the marinade. Then, cook to your personal preference. Enjoy, and have some of that Cabernet , you earned it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A sense of Humor always Helps

Momma has watched many families including her own go through good times and bad. How do they do it and still keep going?

Momma explains : Life is not going to be easy all the time but you can always find a way. You do this with the support of friends and family, a lot of prayer and a sense of humor. Being able to laugh at our own idiosyncrasies and mistakes is key. It also helps to be able to see the lighter side of most situations. In ancient times, philosophers divided the body into four main body fluids that the philosophers believed influenced health and temperament based on the amount of each in the body. In a way they were correct, people who are humorous have a better temperament and medical research has indicated that a positive attitude contributes significantly to our health. In fact, those who maintain a more cheerful disposition recover faster from illness. I believe God gave us a sense of humor to not only laugh at the absurd but at our own frailties also. We are not perfect and will make mistakes but we can overcome them, especially if we smile. Even Momma needs a sense of humor, recently I wrote a blog about the marvels of our own hand. I noted that we all should be grateful for this magnificent part of our body. Shortly after I wrote that piece, I tore a tendon on my left hand and I am now wearing a splint. This will be on for 8 weeks and I am so challenged with many tasks. I truly appreciate the use of all my digits and look forward to the healing of my finger. Yet, I truly must chuckle as I walk around with my splint and think about my injury occurring after I had written the blog. I mean quite clearly, God has a sense of Humor too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grilled Vegetables

Momma likes to grill in the summer time, mainly because that allows Poppa to do the grilling and Momma does the chilling ! Most of us grill our meats but veggies too can be grilled and they taste great with wine.

Momma Explains: Grilled vegetables are easy but you must understand the grilling time and preparation is key. You can grill almost any vegetable but there are some that really jump out after grilling. My favorites are; Onions, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms. Make sure you clean all your vegetables and brush them with olive oil. I like serving grilled vegetables with a Cotes Du Rhone such as Domaine de la Chesnay, 2007

Momma's Grilled Vegetables: Start by peeling your eggplant. After peeling, I slice it into about 1/4 inch rounds and spread the slices on a triple thick paper towel, salt both sides of the slices with Kosher or sea salt. Then let it sit until you are ready to grill ( it needs about 20 minutes to do that). You will be brushing all your vegetables with olive oil and I use a silicone pastry brush for that. Salt and pepper all your vegetables after brushing with olive oil. I slice most of the vegetables into 1/2 inch rounds, except for the onions and eggplant. I slice them slightly thinner. I use large portabello mushrooms and remove the stems before brushing with olive oil. I will cook the flat side of the mushroom first, flip, then sprinkle with blue cheese or parmigiano cheese. Do not use too much cheese or it will run off the mushroom. The onions, mushroom and eggplant take the longest to cook. You will need to press on them or just taste it to determine if they are done. You want a firm but thoroughly cooked vegetable. I find that each grill varies and some can cook more evenly and quickly, our old grill takes about 10 minutes to grill most vegetables, 20 for the eggplant but you will need to experiment a bit. You can always taste one and throw them back on if underdone. The tomatoes cook quickly and tend to drip their juices so watch them, the zucchini and peppers cook about the same amount of time. After the vegetables have finished cooking, place on a large platter, and drizzle with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar . Use the expensive Italian version, it is rich and flavorful so a little goes a long way. Remember to chill your Cotes Du Rhone a bit before serving. You could make a meal out of just the vegetables!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Black Marble Test

Momma remembers the first time Poppa was voted into the Family.

Momma Explains: In our very loud Italian household, any date, any boyfriend was fair game for my families wit, humor and teasing. This was true for all of my many siblings and we all brought fiances home for the inevitable " Black Marble Test". Once over, the a fore mentioned victim was allowed equality with every member of the Family, but first they had to show their acceptance of our sardonic sense of humor. In the Black Marble Test, the fiance is brought into the dining room. It must be the dining room because that is where the Italian men all sit waiting for the multitude of courses. The poor intended is led into the dining room and given a seat next to the largest two men at the table. Then, they are shown a large bowl that contains both white marbles and black marbles. It is explained that in order to be accepted into the family they must be voted on by the male members of the family. ( The women have equal rights in our house they just let the guys run this particular joke) Okay, so the fiance looks down at the bowl full of black and white marbles and is told that the fiance must have all white marbles in the bowl after the vote. A white marble signifies acceptance while a black is a rejection. They are warned that only once has a person been allowed into the family that did not have all white marbles, but that individual is not with us any longer. All the men then look very seriously at the bowl and then scrutinize the hopeful, fearful candidate. The candidate is asked to leave the room and the Patrono start slapping each other and laughing and passing out cigars under the table as they down some wine. When the fidanzato or fidanzata has squirmed for awhile, they are brought back into the room, to gaze at the bowl which is now covered. The counsel pronounces the outcome has been tallied and the cover is whisked off to reveal a bowl full of black marbles. The fiance gazes awkwardly as the table erupts into laughter , wine is poured and enjoyed and cigars are shared. The dazed candidate is now a welcome member of the Family, because if you love one of ours enough to offer a commitment of life-long love, then you are most welcome. Our family wants you to be a part of our traditions and love but most of all our meals and humorous tales. As my one brother-in-law looked down at the bowl full of black marbles, he grinned and said' " Hey at least one person likes me, there is ONE WHITE marble there!" " No," came my father's reply" We just ran out of Black Marbles!" Welcome to our loud but very funny Family. We got your back !

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chicken Salad with an Umbrian White Wine

Momma loves summer, it is a time to relax even when preparing a meal. What to fix for a summer luncheon you might ask ?

Momma Explains: Summer should be easy, picnics and light fare are best in the summer heat. I love simple meals which deliver on fresh flavor made with fresh ingredients. Chicken salad is a great meal to serve to 2 people or 200 people. The secret lies in the cooking of the chicken and the use of exceptional breads. To make chicken salad you must first cook the chicken, in order to do this you should boil the chicken at a medium heat so it boils slowly. Ripping the heat up to high and boiling the chicken in a wild bubble bath results in tough chicken. Use fresh breasts with bone and skins intact and cook in a lightly salted water bath. It should not take more than about 45 minutes. Temperature of the internal breast is about 175-180 F.
As for exceptional breads, unless you make your own, your best bet is to find a great bread bakery. Once you have a reliable source, buy your bread the day you need to use it. I love crusty breads and they are the secret to a delicious sandwich. Pre-packaged rolls are a detraction to a good sandwich. You are taking the time to prepare a meal, go buy fresh rolls or breads.

Momma's Chicken Salad : After boiling the chicken breasts, remove from water and let cool , you should remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones and skin. You may keep the water as it is a very light broth and could be used in gravies for another chicken dish. Chop or shred the meat and place in a bowl, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. In another bowl you will be adding the extras. You can use all of them or some of them depending on your preferences. I like a chicken salad with lots of extras but you choose. Chop celery and add to bowl, add green and red grapes as long as they are sweet, some craisins and chopped walnuts or almonds. Then combine the bowls. In the empty bowl, mix mayonnaise and Poppy seed dressing. ( I use Briannas) . You will need to decide how sweet you want the dressing, the amount of Poppy seed dressing will determine the sweetness. Whisk mayo and dressing together and add to chicken and extras . Toss well and chill. Slice your rolls shortly before serving. Complete the meal with a lovely white wine from Umbria, the acidity in the wine is a good foil for the sweetness of the dressing. I really like 2007 Campogrande, Orvieto Classico. Enjoy a light but great sandwich with your wine and remember to prop your feet up and sit outside to really dine "Alfresco"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Letting them GO, Letting them GROW

Momma wants you to know that we all struggle with parenting. One question that often arises is
" How do I know when to let them go, even if it means they may fall?"

Momma Explains
: Simply, as you let go, let them grow. If your child wants to do something that causes you concern, first examine the motivation for their request and the reasons for your concern. Although it is difficult to remain clinical, an unemotional approach is beneficial in analyzing the situation. When a child wants to try something new such as riding a bike, they often instinctively know that they are ready. While you may need to bandage a scraped knee or two, the child with the proper precautions, will learn to ride that bike. A bandaged knee does not keep a child from growing. Letting them try to ride that bike is a step toward their independence and self sufficiency, it is not a step toward self-destruction. When a child wishes to try something that you believe may be leading toward self-destruction, then you say " No !". Determining whether your fear is justified is a challenge which is why I do advocate using both literary sources and peer sources. Other mothers and fathers who share your value system are a wonderful source of advice. Good child development and parenting books are a worthwhile investment. We really do enter parenthood with little expertise or experience, which is why we are always learning along with our children. We do, however, have an obligation to prepare ourselves for the challenges of parenthood by reading, consulting and praying. Lord knows, we all need to pray our way through parenting.
As my children continue to grow, I watch them enter their own phases of parenting and I am touched when they seek my advice. Grandparents are a sound advisory board and they have that wonderful thing called experience on their side. Not all experiences are good but we can learn from failure as well as success. So as you continue down the road of child rearing, use your own instincts, sound judgment, outside literature, clinicians, friends and family but most of all use a prayer every night that you will guide your children to Grow as they Go.