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Friday, December 12, 2014

Mission to give

On the first Sunday of Advent, our church held and Advent Festival and dinner - crafting, dinning and then a Christmas Carol Sing-along featuring hymnal favorites.  It was a very well run event, with crafting stations carefully organized by the church volunteers and staff.  We had face painting; origami crane making, with the goal of making 1,000 cranes to be hung in the church; a scientific snowflake making station using Borax powder, string, Popsicle sticks, cuts and water. Our crystal snowflake is beautiful! Popsicle stick ornament making; linking paper chains together and topping them off with a star.
 My favorite area, crafting and writing cards to shut-ins and home-bound parishioners.  When I sat down to make a card I was over-whelmed with stickers and glitter glue!  I wasn't sure what I wanted to make but I put my inhibitions aside and just started crafting.  Before I knew it, I had a fun card and was ready to work on another.  
The creative process was easier than I realized.  It was the writing something meaningful that got me stuck.  And then I just looked around the room, listening to the sounds and I took it all in and put it into words.  I wrote of the experience of creating, of sharing a communal experience, of making something and giving it to others.  I wrote about the sounds I could here - the laughter and joy.  I wrote about the way the kids were so carefree and how much love and spirit was present in the Fellowship Hall on this day.  I wrote two letters, each describing the day's event in a way as to let the reader feel as though he or she were with us in the moment. 

I cannot think of a better way to share some bit of love than through a personal letter.  While giving money or gifts, things that people truly need at this time of year (food, clothing, shelter) are our HUMAN duties and obligations to each other, it's not just a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other faith-based duty, it's all of our duty to one another.  The Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, an organization that I know of, contacted me recently, asking me to help spread the word through social media, about what they do.  As I thought about what I could write, or tweet, or even Instagram, to help direct attention to The Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, it dawned on me during the Advent Festival, that what I was doing at church was very similar to the work at the mission.  We were coming together to help bring a bit of happiness to those in need.  Granted, the snowflakes and paper chains are not going to feed, shelter or clothe a person in need at a mission, but the cards will be mailed out and given to people in order that a connection is made, a joy is shared, a person knows that someone is thinking of you.  

Our church family does a lot of work to help those in need.  We support other missions, do house building, send money, clothing, food to organizations.  We have served meals at Broad Street Ministry.  This coming weekend we are doing a meal pack of 10,000 meals in 2 hours, through an organization called, Stop Hunger Now! We are a community of doers and givers.  I'm happy to be a small part of this just as I was pleased to be asked to help spread the word about Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.  

If you can take the time out to not only make a financial contribution to this charity, or a charity of your choice, you can write a card to someone who may come to the mission for a meal. SBRM is accepting holiday cards and is hoping you will write "something from the heart or a meaningful quote".  Cards or letters can be sent to :

Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission
P.O. Box 297
Philadelphia, PA 19105

I think I'll go and make a few more cards now...








Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Third time is the Charm: Diner en Blanc Philadelphia 2014

Note - 4 months later - this post has been sitting in my draft file for all this time.  I cannot believe my procrastination.  It's really a symptom of my depression and lack of desire to write.  Which is a darn shame, the photos and video are meant to be seen and shared, finally!

I was a table leader for this year's 3rd Annual Diner en Blanc Philadelphia extravaganza, on Thursday evening, August 22, 2014. It was, by far, the best year, best event, best location!  The only down note of the whole affair was that Liz couldn't be with me, as she and Nate went to Colorado for a week's vacation on the same day.

As I was in charge of 50 people, leading them from a meeting location on North Broad Street to some secret location, I was totally into the event from the first moment to the last sweep up of the night.  I treated the entire month of pre-event planning, my small part that is, as all plans for a party that I was hosting. 50 people were going to rely on me to bring them to a swell party, I wasn't going to abandon them once we set up our tables.Before the event, I stayed in close touch with all the guests on my list.  At the event, I had gifts for each guest, bubbles in a silver wand, and candy, along with a tag with the hash tag and my contact information.  Another special thing we planned at the party was to do a birthday sing to one of guests.  It was the 23rd birthday for one guest, and his mom told me in advance.  Since most of my friends at the event are singers, we did an "impromptu" birthday sing - in the best operatic style of Happy Birthday anyone ever heard!  This was an event that no one could ever forget!


The above video illustrates the sheer mayhem, magnitude and well-choreographed work that goes into doing a  party for 3,500 people.  Rules are integral in keeping this event gorgeous and well-run.


My group was seated at the south end of the event, near to Spruce Street, between the Double Tree Hotel and the Wilma Theatre.

One of the most photographed table center pieces of the night - an Eifel Tower with lights and flowers.  It was part of one of my guest's talbescape - it took up so much room they barely had space to eat, but it was worth giving up the space. Pat and her guests were featured prominently in many articles, photographs and the #DEBPHL14 video.

This is one of my favorite photos that I captured on my brief walk down Broad Street once the party began.  Like many of my best photos, it was a lucky accident.  Sometimes I can get that money shot that captures everything about a mood in one fantastic moment.
LeAnne and I got a great tip from Philly Chit Chat blogger and photographer, Hugh Dillion - he told us to pose with our chins down.  Here we are, with our best foot forward and no double chins!
Capturing selfies - LeAnne and my friend, Maren (aka Super Maren) were in the process of taking a selfie photo - so naturally, I had to document the moment.
My friends, Dave and Suzannah - I think we were all tipsy by night's end.  Dave is being rather cheeky here, licking some whipped cream off his wife's cheek. 
All packed up and ready to roll back to our car.  Whew! It was a spectacular night that far surpassed all of my expectations. 



Monday, December 1, 2014

Life Hacking: Lemon Ginger Honey and Bourbon Cough Syryp Elixir


 
I saw a post online from a website that I follow, called The Kitchn.  I'm a big fan of their posts and website.  Most days I find several things or ideas well worth giving a try.  One in particular caught my attention - a "cold or cough medicine" for grown ups.  It was a variation on a Hot Toddy - lemon, honey and a bit of bourbon, maybe thinned out a bit with some hot water, heated up and swallowed to warm you from the inside.  The recipe for this was straight forward, a few tablespoons of each ingredient and then all mixed together and warmed in a microwave.  

I was immediately reminded of a cough syrup elixir that someone made for Liz, a tincture of fresh ginger and lemon slices put into a small jar and topped with honey.  The honey and lemon juices mingle together, creating a light lemony syrup which is then infused with piquant ginger heat. 

Well, you know what I did? I combined the two recipe ideas and made a whole new bottle of joy!  I bought a bag of organic lemons and a big old hand of ginger root.  I knew we had some honey that a friend gave to us a while back from her bee hives, and I still had an ample amount of my favorite bourbon, Bulleit Rye Whiskey.  I cleaned the lemons and ginger, then sliced them all into small pieces and placed them into a 16 ounce canning jar.  Once the jar was packed with lemon and ginger, I poured in the honey.  Then, for good measure, I added the whiskey to the honey bottle, swirled it around to get out the honey crystal dregs, then poured the sweet whiskey into the lemon ginger jar.  All told, I added about a cup each of honey and bourbon to my jar.  Closed the lid tightly and shook the jar a few times to get the honey, lemon juice and whiskey all cozy.  Into the refrigerator it went.  

I'll let this sit for a few days so all the flavors can meld together and then I'll have a sip or two each night with my evening tea.  I may even make a batch or two of this as Christmas gifts - put up into smaller jars though.  4 ounce jars if I like you, 8 ounce jars if you're really special!  The jumbo jar stays with me!  As for how long it lasts, well that depends on how fast you go through the medicine.  I will say that you can keep adding honey and bourbon/whiskey to the lemons and ginger, and you can use the lemons and ginger to flavor your hot toddy, your whiskey cakes, your tea, or other consumables.  Should last you through the next polar vortex...

Lemon Ginger Honey and Bourbon Elixir Ingredients: 
  • 1 - 16 ounce Wide Mouth Canning Jar or other suitable wide mouth glass container with tight fitting lid
  • 4 Lemons (preferably organic) - cleaned thoroughly & cut into quarter sized half moon slices
  • 1/4 pound of Fresh Ginger Root - cleaned, but not peeled - cut into 1/8th inch slices
  • 1 Cup Good Quality Honey (or more as needed)
  • 1 Cup Good Quality Bourbon or Whiskey - Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Bulleit, Wild Turkey, etc. (use more or less as needed to fill the jar)  Do not use a flavored or honey flavored bourbon/whiskey as it will be too sweet or strong
Directions:

  1. Wash and clean all the lemons and the ginger and the glass jar.  Dry all items.
  2. Cut the lemons in half length wise, then slice the lemon halves into half moon slices, about a quarter of an inch thick.  Cut the half moon slices into half again.  
  3. Cut the ginger root into slices, 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick.
  4. Layer the ginger and lemon slices into the jar, one layer at a time, alternating the layers until the jar is filled to the top, just below the rim of the jar.  Press the layers down with the back of a spoon to compact everything.
  5. Pour in the honey and then pour in the bourbon/whiskey.  Close the lid tightly and shake the jar vigorously a few times to combine all the ingredients and to get the lemon juices flowing.
  6. Put the sealed jar into the refrigerator and let the lemons and ginger macerate a few days before using, ideally 2 to 3 days.
  7. When ready to use, spoon a few tablespoons into a cup of hot water or tea and enjoy.
  8. The lemons and ginger can also be spooned out and placed into your hot toddy or cuppa.
  9. To make more syrup, re-use the lemons and ginger and refill the jar with honey and bourbon or whiskey.  
  10. The syrup will last indefinitely if refrigerated.  The macerated lemons and ginger will keep, in the jar, in the syrup mixture for up to 1 year.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pulled Barbecue and Pumpkin Pork

It took a chance encounter at the check-out line in Wegman's supermarket to bring me back to blogging.  I've been not into posting lately, stress, depression, lost my mojo...the usual.  It's hard to post and create stuff after all these years that feels fresh and tasty.  I'm in that mood of who wants to hear/read what I have to say/write?  Anyway, I've been enjoying doing Instagram Posts and a few sparse Facebook posts these days.  I'm thinking the days of blogging as we've known it may be numbered.  Without instant feedback on who's reading these musings it doesn't feel like a lot of fun to write.  Must be my job stress talking...

As I said, a chance encounter with a woman behind me in the check out line at Wegman's encouraged me to do a fuller post today.  I've done a few versions of this dish over the years with postings but this one will be the twitter/facebook/instagram scaled down version.  Sort of Thug Kitchen meets FancyCookingMoFo meshed in with my egotistical voice. Thank you Wegman's Lady!

The recipe conversation started because I had picked up an organic pork shoulder.  It was on the conveyor belt, and the lady behind me asked me how I was planning to cook it. 
Easy I said, throw it all into a Dutch Oven pot, like a Le Creuset, with:
  • 2 large chopped onions
  • 5-6 Medium/Large Carrots chopped or cut into large slices
  • Lots of garlic- crushed
  • Pour in a bottle of Pumpkin beer/lager or ale or use a good soda if you don't drink beer (like Coke, rootbeer or Dr. Pepper)
  • A bottle of good bbq sauce - I used Wegman's original
  • 1/2 can pumpkin (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bottle of water (use the bbq bottle, then you get all the dregs of sauce out of it!) 
  • Mix it all together 



  1. Put everything into the pot and cover the pot and roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 3 or 4 hours.
  2. For the last 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, take the lid off so the liquid reduces. 
  3. When the pork is done, you can shred it. 
  4. We'll have this for dinner tomorrow night, w/black beans, sauteed peppers and I'll served with corn tortillas.




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

White Pumpkin Chili 2 Ways


UPDATE! I'm happy to say that I contributed this chili, the turkey version, to a chili contest at my church on Sunday, 10/12/14, and won for most unusual ingredient entry!  The second batch of this came out just was well, if not better than the 1st!  If you have a salt-free Mexican Seasoning mixture, use it! And again, do use the Goya Cilantro cooking base - it makes such a wonderful "sauce" for this white chili version.

As soon as the Autumnal chill comes whipping through our house, I want to pull out the Dutch Oven and Slow Cookers.  I also want to start cooking with beers and PUMPKIN - in just about everything!  I was in the mood for chili, but I'm tired of my usual version, with a tomato base and tons of ingredients.  It may be cooling off around here, but it's not yet time for a heavy hearty chili.  Instead I made a batch of white chili, using a Goya Cilantro as my base, along with posole, two kinds of white beans, and a lot of vegetables.  I made a portion of this totally vegan/vegetarian, so I could have it for work.  The rest I added browned, lean ground turkey.  Both versions were fantastic, and truly, the meat wasn't necessary, I just wanted it.  I served this with a quick doctored batch of box corn muffin mix, to which I added pumpkin.  Pumpkin really is the flavor of the season! Actually, pumpkin has very little flavor, it's the nutmeg/cinnamon/clove/ginger mixture that is the flavor we all think of as pumpkin spices.

Onward with our recipe. Use low-sodium, high quality canned beans if you are using canned beans.  Drain and rinse them - to remove more of the salt.  I love the Goya Recaito Cilantro base - it's super low in sodium and adds a nice base of flavor quickly.  Made from a puree of onions, garlic and cilantro.  A bottle of a nice pumpkin style ale if you desire. We had Sam Adams on hand, but any pumpkin ale that you enjoy drinking is what you need to use.  Saute the vegetables in batches so things cook evenly and develop their flavors and caramelize.  There's a reason to the order of cooking the vegetables - some cook faster than others.  
I used a vegetarian version of  Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (which means it had no lard in it!) and added 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree to the mixture.  It made the muffins very moist and kept them tender and fresh tasting for days!

 Cut the vegetables into even sizes - about the size of the beans - so that would be on the small-medium dice size.  This chili doesn't need to cook all day - about 2 hours max.  Note that it will taste much better the next day once it has a chance for all the flavors to marry together.  Most ingredients can be found in the Mexican Foods aisle of your supermarket.

 White Chili Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Onion (about 2-3 cups) - peeled and medium dice
  • 5 Medium Carrots - (about 2 cups) -  peeled and medium dice
  • 6 Garlic Cloves (about 1/4 cup) - finely minced
  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper (about 1 cup) - medium dice
  • 1 Large Green Bell Pepper - (about 1 cup) - medium dice
  • 1 Medium Zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups) - small/medium dice
  • 1 Medium Yellow Squash (about 1 1/2 cups) - small/medium dice
  •  2 Tablespoons Cumin
  • 1/4 Cup Ancho Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Chipotle Chili Powder (optional, for additional heat and kick!)
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
  •  2 Cans Beans: (Low Sodium) Light Kidney, or White Beans or Pinto Beans (15-16 oz each) – drained and rinsed
  • 1 - 14/16 ounce can of Hominy or Pozole - drained and rinsed well
  • 1 Bottle of Recaito Cilantro Base by Goya
  • 1- 4 ounce can of Fire Roasted Diced Chilies
  • 1 Cup Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • 1-12 ounce bottle of a good quality Pumpkin Ale or Lager
  • 1 Cup of water
  • 2 Cups Frozen Corn
  • 1/2 Cup Packed Cilantro– minced - for serving/finishing
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper—to taste
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lime (about 1 teaspoon of zest and 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice)
Directions:
  1. Use a stock pot, Dutch oven or other large and heavy bottomed pot. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until it shimmers over medium-high heat.
  2. Add in the onions and the carrots; saute and sweat them about 8 minutes, or until they begin to take on a hint of color.
  3. Add in the garlic, stir and cook another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the peppers, the squash and zucchini and saute for 5 to 8 minutes minutes.
  5. Next add in all of the dry seasonings, cumin through thyme and stir to combine and toast.
  6. Add in the beans, pozole, frozen corn, cilantro base, diced chilies, pumpkin puree and beer and water.  Stir to combine.
  7. Bring the mixture just to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, 1 to 2 hours.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed; adjust as needed additional cumin, chili powder or oregano  Stir in the lime zest and juice last, to brighten the flavors and stir in the freshly chopped cilantro.
  9. Makes about 1 gallon of chili or enough to last several meals and freeze some.  Frozen, it will last for up to 4 months.  Serve hot with cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips or with brown rice, if desired.
  10. ADDING MEATS: If making this with the ground turkey, or any ground meat of choice, brown the meat in a separate pan, and season lightly with pepper and and some of the Mexican seasonings so that the meat has a layer of flavor. Don't add any salt, there will be enough in the final dish.  Drain off any fat and water, and then add to the chili pot along with the the liquid ingredients.
Notes: If you want to add bulgar wheat to this to bulk up the chili, add 1 cup of bulgar wheat  it when you add in the liquid ingredients, along with an additional cup of water. As the bulgar wheat cooks, it will absorb the liquid and more than double in size.  If the mixture is too dry, add in additional water, by 1/2 cup at a time.  Remember to stir the mixture to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. 

This recipe does use a few canned products, beans, pumpkin, cilantro base, diced chilies.  You can make things from scratch, but in all my years of massive cooking, it really is okay to use canned products so long as you know the salt/sugar/fat contents of each and realize how quickly it will add up in the final product. Posole, is a lime and salt soaked dried corn product.  It's a very Mexican ingredient and adds a quirky and wonderful texture to the chili.