Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Family Photo Fun

has tons of old photos just hidden away but they need to be seen.

Momma Explains: We all have a need to preserve happy times by capturing those moments in photography. Since most are blessed to have multiple opportunities to photograph, we all are deluged with pictures. These pictures may be loaded onto CD's, jammed into shoe boxes, placed in albums or still sit on memory sticks. These memories all share a common location; they are all invisible to most visitors. We take these beautiful pictures and happy remembrances yet they fall into the cavern of forgotten moments. Sadly, we all drag them out for a funeral or event when we want to bring back memories of the past. Why not start bringing those magic moments back now. Years ago, it was popular to make photo collages and hang them on the wall. The challenge was finding the picture that would fit into the predesignated cut out. Now, we have so many scrap booking and cropping tools available as well as materials that would allow you to design our own schematic and display your pictures.
I love it when people come into our house and gaze at the wall that holds out collection. I have a collage for each child. As the grand children visit, we look at the resemblance to other family members.
I have not made a collage in awhile but it is time to start again. How about you, display those happy memories. You will never tire of looking at them. There are even sites that allow you to make a custom collage. I have included one for you to peruse.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prosciutto Wrapped Vegetables

Momma likes to dress up her vegetables but what wrap should they wear?

Momma Explains: Prosciutto is a great wrap for many vegetables. I often use this delicious ham to liven the standard vegetable fare. I especially like prosciutto with asparagus or string beans. Always use fresh asparagus and preferably fresh string beans but the frozen, whole, organic will do in a pinch. Cook the vegetables in slightly salted water, do not over salt, and place in cold water to stop cooking. They should be still a bit crisp. I love to have this with an Italian white wine, they are getting easier to find especially the Sicilian whites or Umbrian whites. Serve the wine chilled and enjoy this treat.

Prosciutto Wrapped Vegetables

You will need one slice of prosciutto for every three string beans or three asparagus. Remember that skinny asparagus and string beans are the most tender. Fatter vegetables are often tough.( Just like Momma)

Cook the vegetables in slightly salted water and rinse in cold water to stop cooking, keep the vegetables on the firm side. Brush a baking dish with olive oil. Wrap the vegetables with the prosciutto, three per slice of prosciutto and place in the baking dish. Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the veggie wrap and then sprinkle with good Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 F for only about 5- 7 minutes. Keep an eye on the cheese as it browns quickly. Sometimes I broil them but you need to watch the pan VERY carefully. This is a great side dish to chicken. I have even just had vegetables and crusty bread for dinner but of course, I also had wine.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Generous Heart of America

Momma knows our country may not be perfect but we sure step up when people are in need.

Momma Explains: The recent devastating earthquake and aftershocks have left the people of Haiti in truly heart breaking conditions. Their losses are incredible and their need is great. Many countries have offered support but not one comes close the The United States of America. In our stores , in our churches, in our communities and our schools, in each one of these locations, there are relief efforts and opportunities. I personally know physicians who are trying to get to Haiti to offer their services. There are donation locations around every bend and the money is coming in. People are opening up their wallets even when our economic climate is not good. The reason is quite simple; the people of America have the biggest hearts in the world. We are a country blessed with many freedoms and we do not hesitate to share our successes with others. That heart, that generosity, those freedoms are what makes America so great. So the next time some foreign dignitary complains about American capitalism, American influences or American self-assurance, I ask him, " Hey, who do want to have YOUR back when disaster strikes? " Yeah, that's what I thought, the USA wins every time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quick Salmon Bake

Momma likes to make a fish dinner but I like it to be moist.

Momma Explains: Cooking fish is always a challenge for me, it really dries out quickly and I can't tell if it is done by using a meat thermometer. Some fish will flake easily( such as salmon) when cooked but others such as Chilean sea bass produce another texture when finished cooking. I only have a few solid fish recipes. This is my salmon bake recipe, I have cooked it on the grill but this recipe is done in the oven at 400F. Try a nice chardonnay with Salmon, I like unoaked chardonnay. Do not be afraid to buy whites, they can be the perfect beverage for a fish or light fare dish. If Chardonnay is too heavy, I just always like Riesling, on the dry side of course. Arugula salad and Asian noodles are great sides with this dish.

Salmon Bake
Preheat oven to 400

Place some 6 oz salmon fillets on aluminum foil, each fillet should go in one foil packet. Then brush both sides of the fillets with olive oil. Sprinkle with some sea salt and pepper. Squeeze some lemon juice on top of fillets. Just a little on each. Then place one large pat of butter on top of the fillets and some chopped chives. I like a lot of chives but it is up to you. Slice a sweet onion and top each fillet with a slice or two of THINLY sliced onion. Fold aluminum foil around salmon so it makes a packet and bake for 15 minutes. Take packets out and let sit in foil for about 5 minutes. While the salmon is cooking make a salad with mixed greens and arugula, then cook up some quick cooking Asian noodles. The lighter noodles cook faster than you can get the bowl out.
A nice healthy dinner, ready very quickly. Sounds good to me!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fairy Wings; The Perfect Accessory

Dawn Fairy Wings

: has two grand daughters that love to play dress up but one could give us all a lesson in fashion fun.
Momma Explains: My grand daughters watch the many children fantasy movies that are available and of course, emulate the main characters. Sometimes they are fairies, princesses, wicked witches or queens. They are ready to embrace their role and their wands. It is so much fun to watch them delve into a cushioned world of imagination and magic. I wish we could do the same with the more caustic components of life. Well, my youngest grand daughter has attempted to transcend the imaginary into the rational. ( I think they tried to do that in math theory as well) Anyway, the two year old loves her fairy wings and wears them everywhere. She has been told that she does not have flying capability but wears them none the less. Her three year old sister was very disappointed to discover that the wings were not aviator quality and dismissed them. Luckily her empirical experiment involved jumping off her bed and when she did not soar into the air, she returned the offending wings to her mother stating, " These do NOT work!" Of course there followed a lecture on the fact that all dress ups and their accessories were PRETEND and did not defy the laws of physics. The three year old left the lecture disappointed but the two year old smiled and put on her wings, grabbed her wand and fairy skirt ( okay I spoil them rotten) and she pranced around changing chairs into horses and leaping about the room. She still loves her wings and now has taken to wearing them outside the house, in public. At first my daughter tried to discourage this new fashion but the two year old was so adamant that they let her don her wings on outings. The presence of the wings is truly the perfect accessory. People look and smile, other children approach because they recognize a true spirit of fun and everyone who meets a youngster with wings is taken back to those magic moments in childhood when the world was so full of our imagination and adventure. I love those wings, in fact I am thinking about getting myself a pair. I bet they would wait on me first in those long check out lines because if they didn't I would whip out my wand !!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Italian String Beans

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Momma likes vegetables but they need a little jolt to awaken their flavor.

Momma Explains: Vegetables are an important part of our diet but cooked vegetables lose a little flavor in the cooking process. That is why raw vegetables seem to be tastier. However, cooked vegetables can have some zing if you do two important things.
First: Always cook the vegetables to just done, in other words, they still have crunch but enough give to taste cooked. The cooking time will vary for each vegetable so just like pasta, you will need to taste them every few minutes to determine when they are done. Start with boiling water, then add the vegetable, if you are boiling. If braising or grilling, always get your pan/grill up to temperature prior to adding vegetables.
Second: Use good quality fresh or frozen vegetables and some appropriate spice combination. Garlic or onion or tomato are very vegetable friendly. You can play around with different seasonings. Sometimes, I use the same seasonings on my vegetables as I do in my meat or meat marinade.
Here is one of my favorite string bean recipes, my mother-in-law taught me this . It was a favorite in little italy. Try a nice Sicilian red or one from Puglia. I have found several bargains from Italy lately., so check with your local wine merchant.

Josephine's Italian String Beans
Fry up a pound of thin sliced bacon, drain off most of the fat but save about three tablespoons .Put the three tablespoons of bacon fat into a large pot.Cut bacon slices in half and set aside.
In the three tablespoons of fat , slowly cook one small chopped onion. When cooked add 1 to 1 and 1/2 pounds cleaned fresh or frozen, whole green beans to the onion,and the cut, cooked bacon, stir so all the string beans get coated. After coating let simmer a couple of minutes, stir often. Then add one jar of your favorite tomato sauce or about three cups of your homemade sauce. Add some salt and pepper, but not much as the bacon has salt. You can check the flavor after about 5 minutes and add more salt then if necessary. Let the string beans simmer till just past crunchy. Taste and add salt or pepper. Turn off stove,then let sit in hot gravy and they will cook more. Serve with a simple steak or pot roast.

ake about 1 and 1/2 pounds cleaned fresh or frozen green beans.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Years Resolutions

Momma always has a New Years Resolution and that is a good personal introspective goal but there is one we can all share and use to help us attain other goals.
Momma Explains: Every year I realize there is an area or areas that need improvement in my life, body or attitude. I am human, not perfect, a work in progress at all times. It is therefore common to seek to find a better me. One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received came from a priest. It was a piece of advice that seemed at first both self centered and demanding yet upon reflection it made sense and sensibility. I asked the priest what prayer he said to begin each day. He responded, " I pray for myself first each day." My immediate response was to think that we should pray for others first and then ourselves but he had a good point. If we pray for ourselves in a selfless manner, requesting guidance toward our interactions with others, then we begin each day perfecting ourselves FOR others. It is an interesting way of looking at prayer and I do try to begin each day praying for myself and my actions on behalf of others. Perhaps a good New Years Resolution would be to try to improve our prayer life as well as ourselves. Pray for yourself, I do.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beef Stew with a zing

Momma loves winter meals that warm you through and through but they do not need to be bland.
Momma Explains: Perhaps, no time more than winter does the family savor sitting together for a comfort meal together. These meals are often old time recipes that bring back memories and a sense of warmth. My family loves stew but Momma's version has wine and tomato sauce. ( You expected brown gravy??) I serve this with crusty bread, and a rich wine such as a Rhone wine. The 2005's are drinking fine and if a Rhone is not available try something from Chile or Argentina. Check the wine rating and recommended food pairing. You want a rich hearty wine with this dish.Whatever wine you choose, use it in the recipe as well as the glass, and have a few sips yourself while cooking. Remember, if the cook is happy then everybody is happy.

Momma's Beef Stew with Zing
I make this in my Nesco roaster but a very large non stick pot or a La Creuset type casserole is fine as well. You need to stir this several times.

3 lbs beef round or top round cut into 2 by 1 inch cubes( or close enough)
3 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning plus some kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper ( less if you do not like pepper)
olive oil, enough to coat pan
1/2 large onion chopped finely
3 cloves minced garlic
3 stalks of celery
2 large white potatoes cut into one inch cubes
Frozen bags of vegetables( I use string beans and peas)
1 heaping cup fresh peeled baby carrots
( you can play around with the types of vegetables based on family preference)

1 jar tomato sauce ( buy a good one) plus 1/2 jar water( minimum)
1 cup red wine

Coat bottom of pan with olive oil, heat up the oil. Add the chopped onion, garlic and celery and sprinkle with some kosher salt, allow to soften .
Coat the cubed beef with the Montreal Steak seasoning. (If you do not have this seasoning, mix Kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper together but the balance is tricky.) I find the steak seasoning very useful in my spice rack.
Drop the meat into the oil and be careful not to splatter. Keep the heat low enough so as to avoid burning and spitting. Let meat brown on each side, turning till all sides are browned. Because the onion mixture is in there, the browning will be minimized. When browned add the tomato sauce, water, wine and pepper. Stir the mixture. Let meat simmer for about 1 and 1/2 hours, stir on occasion, then add the carrots, peas, string beans and potatoes. If the juice is getting low add more water. the potato starch will thicken it so check it if you can. You want the juice to dip the bread. Let simmer again for at least one hour. I will put this on and let it go for 4 hours but I can control my roaster temperature easily. You want to make sure that the potatoes and carrots are cooked through. You will need to taste your broth as it may need more salt and pepper. I like a saltier stew than most and add more salt than in the recipe, so adjust according to your own taste. Hope you have that bread ready and the wine poured. This is so good.