Monday, January 29, 2007

BPW #2 - Revisited

The BPW #2 event is on and once again being hosted by the amiable Meeta.

The theme this time around is “Love is in the Air”, in honor of Valentine’s Day. My little darlings are always my Valentines. Ander will forever by my Valentine. With this event, I am sending this Valentine to my BPW Partner.

"Tibetan Nuns . . . laughing."

I love this photo. It invokes laughter and joy! What better way to express love, but with laughter. You know, the big one that comes from your belly. The kind that aches oh so good. The kind that brings tears to your eyes. Sometimes a snort will sneak out of me when I can't control it anymore.

Everything you ever wanted to know about laughter can be found here

As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

I say, give me a HUGE dose of laughter anytime, anywhere, anyhow . . .

Life is a banquet, my friends.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Menu For Hope III - Epilogue

C-O-N-G-R-A-T-U-L-A-T-I-O-N-S ! ! ! ! !


The winners are:


Elise of Simply Recipes

While I was going through my "junk" emails, I happened to notice the subject matter as "Menu For Hope" and realized that Elise had promptly notified me on winning her prize. If I hadn't been looking, I wouldn't have found Elise's email filed in the wrong place.

Advice to other prize winners, if you haven't received a response from the donating blogger within a reasonable amount of time, contact the donating blogger, again, to ensure they have received your email.

Estelle and Elise, we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Life is a banquet, my friends.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Wooden Spoon Aficionada - Arrabiata Sauce

Today I wrote a four page handwritten letter to a perfect stranger. The object of this exercise was to write a letter telling them about one of my favorite things. It was to “be specifically a thing – not a person, pet or anything living and breathing”. I found this theme to be intriguing. I proceeded to write my hand scribed letter and found myself challenged as to write about ONLY “one” particular favorite thing. I managed to complete my letter with what I felt had a sense of appeal and interest. Hopefully, my “pen pal” will appreciate what I shared and write me back.

One of my favorite things I did not disclose in my letter is my affinity for wooden spoons. I’ve collected wooden spoons for many years. Starting from my mom’s kitchen, I have the wooden spoon that we used when I first learned to make a pot of rice. I have the wooden spoon that was handed to me by my college roommate’s grandmother when she taught me the true “marinara” sauce from her beloved Italia.

During the years of collecting, I have accumulated more spoons than any one person can use in a lifetime, if only used once. I have them in different sizes, shapes, and colors. I have them in different types of simple to exotic woods, such as, juniper, olive, walnut, cherry and various other fruitwoods. In my travels, I make it an obligation to add to my growing collection. I hand carried a long handled spoon from my trip to Spain, used only to make the Paella Valenciana specialty dish. Family and Friends bring back wooden spoons from countries they’ve visited and gifted them to me. A neighbor brought me back a "tasting" spoon from Bulgaria. I spot them at thrift shops, tag sales and flea markets. I do not discriminate against well-used, stained or distorted wooden spoons. I’m not limited to just spoons. I also have wooden spatulas, ladles, spreaders, tongs, mortars, pestles, bowls and platters. These exquisite wooden specimens are my favorite treasures. They are my allies in the kitchen.

They feel at home in my hands. They are soft, warm and inviting. They embrace the liquid broths, creamy sauces, and thick syrups. They meld together grains of Arborio for risotto, crush plum San Marzanos for marinara and gently bring together the softest scrambled eggs. My wooden spoons can caress the ever-sensitive non-stick pans and aggressively mix up bulky bread dough. They can take on the challenge of thick polenta and requisite of delicate soufflés. They can dissuade a hand from picking at the pot or entice a taste of a savory morsel.

Arrabiata Sauce (Ah-rah-bee-AH-ta)

Makes 6 servings


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans whole tomatoes, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes.
Stir in wine, sugar, chopped fresh basil, crushed red pepper flakes, tomato paste, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, black pepper and crushed tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered about 20 minutes.
Ladle over the hot cooked pasta of your choice. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serve hot.

NOTE: Our choice is usually "Penne" pasta. This is a simple marinara sauce. It's the addition of the crushed red pepper flakes that makes it "Arrabiata" meaning "angry" in Italian.

My most favorite wooden spoons of all are the ones hand-made by my darling hubby, Ander. He is a talented artist and can always turn a plain old chunk of wood into an exquisite piece of “objet d’art”.

Life is a banquet, my friends.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year . . . Welcome 2007 ! ! !

Happy New Year!!!

I stayed up as long as I could, even with a short nap taken in the afternoon. The cold night air outside, the warmth radiating from the space heater on my tootsies, a delicious bowl of split-pea soup, Ander lovingly made for us (He used the leftover pork loin roast we seved at my brother's house for Christmas Eve), settling in my full tummy, flannel pj’s, my knitting on my lap and the white noise from Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve on the TV, lulled me into a comfortable deep sleep on the couch. Ander tried to wake me at the bewitching hour to welcome in the New Year with our traditional toast and anticipated smooch at the first stroke. But as it had been since Christmas day, ”Tradition”, did not reveal itself during the holiday season. The horrible, stormy weather, did not allow us to depart for Southern California to join my Mom, my sisters, their spouses and my little darlings for our “traditional” Christmas gathering. We decided to postpone our trip when weather and schedules permit. Upside, I got some good “zzzzzz’s” in last night.

I haven’t given up hope; I still have until January 6th, “Twelfth Night”, Three Kings Day, to celebrate the last days of the holiday. The twelve days of Christmas end with the Feast of Epiphany. According to a Bible story, the three kings, Caspar, Mechior and Balthasar, “saw on the night when Christ was born, a bright star, followed it to Bethlehem and found there the Christchild and presented it with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

January 1st is the 8th day of Christmas, “eight maids a-milking”. Yup, I’m gonna ”milk” the rest of the season as long as I can…LOL!

I still have plenty of baking to do and prepping packages to go out via snail-mail.

Tomorrow Ander and I head out to the City to take in the California Impressionists exhibit at the de Young Museum. We plan on sharing a picnic lunch on the grounds of Golden Gate Park. Ander will be taking a trip to Costa Rica in a few days to explore the Rainforest. It should be fun and exciting. I will remain home to care for the “girlie-girls” and hold down the fort. I have several projects waiting to begin on the threshold of this New Year.

Sorry, no resolutions to share here. I’ve resolved not to have resolutions, but rather make the sincere effort to make things happen, to make a difference. The recent “Menu for Hope III” fundraising campaign strongly demonstrated what fantastic things can occur when heart, soul and passion are involved. Together, we raised over $60,000!

I look forward to continued friendships I’ve discovered through the food blogging world, making new connections, embarking on new adventures and sharing the “banquet of Life” with you who have blessed me with your kindheartedness, thoughtfulness, generosity, humanity and inspiration. You know who you are.

I leave you with Ander's simple split pea soup recipe. He's 100% Estonian, but has a Swedish soul through and through. A vigorous Viking, indeed!


(Swedes dip their spoons into a dab of mustard before plunging their spoons into the soup. It is accompanied with crisp, dark rye bread.)


1 Tbl. olive oil
1 med. onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lg. ribs of celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 potatoes, diced
1 yam, diced
2 smoked ham hocks (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
1 lb. lean, boneless pork, cut in 3/4 inch cubes
6 or more c. water
2 c. split peas (Green or Yellow)
1 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. marjoram or thyme, to taste
Pepper to taste
Prepared mustard
Plain Yoghurt or Sour Cream (optional)


In a Dutch oven, sauté garlic in olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrots, potatoes and yam. Cook over medium heat until translucent and just tender. Add ham hocks and pork. Brown pork meat. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Add salt and marjoram or thyme, to taste. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until all is tender, stirring carefully once or twice to prevent scorching. Add more water if soup is too thick. Remove ham hocks; cut off meat and dice small. Discard skin. Return meat (and bones, for extra flavor) to soup; season with pepper, to taste. Heat through and serve with prepared mustard on the rim of the soup plate or on the side, in separate mustard dish. Place a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream on top to garnish.

Makes 6 servings.

NOTE: Soak split peas in cold water overnight to alleviate "gas" producing cooties that may come later. Taste for salt, as the ham hocks have plenty already. I like to squeeze a bit of citrus, be it lemon or lime to give the soup a bit of a clean, fresh finish. Although the mustard, yoghurt and sour cream offers a welcomed tart and creamy mouth feel. Any way you like it, mmmm...

Life is a banquet, my friends. Happy New Year!