Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Hidden Gem!

 On our last trip to France back in October, 2012, to the Nice area, we ventured just into Italy to explore some incredible medieval villages north of Ventimiglia.  Dolceacqua was the first village that hangs over the valley.  It was made famous by a Monet painting of its lovely bridge that connects both sides of the village

The famous bridge
The town hangs over the valley

Leading into its dank and dark interior
In the sleepy town square, a young lady was selling wine made by her father along with olive oil.  We were not greatly impressed by our tasting, but I bought a bottle to be courteous for 12 Euro, I think,  for later drinking back home.

"Maixei" may be a wine coop also

This is a "Superior" bottling meeting higher standards

The wine was the 2010 vintage of Rossese di Dolceacqua, the only area in the world that grows this grape that was imported from Provence.  This DOC wine must contain 95% Rossese juice.

We cellared this wine until yesterday's repast of a lovely corned beef and veggies.  After decanting for an hour, we were surprised to see a wine of a lovely, light ruby color.  It opened up to become a lovely, fragrant wine with cooked cherries,  blackcurrant and rose essences.  It was slightly dry and tannic but very fruity and flavorful.  Delightful!!

Too bad it is so hard to find in the US.  So I am planning for next year's return trip to the French and Italian Rivieras with a few days inland back to the beautiful villages of the Nervia valley and its great Rossese wines and wonderful cuisine.

You never know what a bottle of wine can become!

If any of you are interested in further wine tasting studies, I suggest you go to the Dining  and Wine section of the NY Times and a feature written by Eric Asimov entitled "WINE SCHOOL."  He will suggest 3 bottles of wine from a particular wine and vintage to taste and critique following his suggested guidelines.  This has been fun so far as one bottle suggested was liked by about 2-1 for those of us not liking it!!  ENJOY!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

I actually made a roast!!

I feel as if I have crawled out of a deep hole.  As is usually the case, (SIGH), as I get older, the weight comes on faster and tends to stay a while.  Having always been quite slender, this is nonetheless very disturbing.  But, on the other hand, I am considered very healthy by the doctors, so it is what it is and I am finally willing to accept this fact of life.

Still, very little of any interest has been eaten in the last 8 weeks.  No bread, no desserts, and so forth.  You get the picture.  Both the Trout and I have lost some weight and we really do feel much better.  But tonight, it was time to start cooking again and we had a good time putting dinner on the table.

The Trout is always trolling for interesting recipes.  I spend time on Pinterest and find recipes that look interesting to me.  He won this round and I think it was a good choice.

Al Capone Roast
  found on Allrecipes

3 pounds flank steak, pounded thin for easy rolling
1/4 cup olive oil
Finely chopped black olives
1 cup minced fresh mushrooms
8 slices proscuitto
6 slices mortadella
Several thin slices of mozzarella
10 slices pepperoni sausage
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Rub the flank steak with olive oil on both sides.  Sprinkle the mushrooms and olives over the steak.  Place a layer or prosciutto, mortadella, mozzarella and then pepperoni.  Season with oregano and garlic salt.

Roll up the steak against the grain (long side toward you) and once again, coat the outside with olive oil.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat.  Sear the roast over the entire outside.  Leave the roast in the skillet and place it in the oven.

Roast for 1 hour or until the internal temperature in the center of the roast reaches 160 degrees.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  In total honesty, I took the roast out after 45 minutes and let it rest for 10 minutes.  It has a medium rare cast towards the center which was perfect for us.  Yes, it could have roasted another 15 minutes in the oven.  But, I felt it was still quite perfect this way.  Actually, quite delicious.

From what I have read, the Al Capone Roast is pretty normal table fare in the Boston area.  As I understand, you can go into a butcher and buy it all prepared for the oven.  I have not quite figured out why Boston is the city that celebrates this "well known man," but that is what I have read.  

So many of you kind, dear friends have been asking about our granddaughter, Rachel.  She was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in January. Today she received her 8th injection of the drug Actemra, and I am pleased to report, she is doing quite well.  The last few weeks have not been without incidence.   The rash and pain and sleeplessness have been there, but overall, Rachel is doing quite well.  Even though I am not near her, my contact with Rachel over phone calls tells me she has matured quite a bit.  She always thanks me for my support.  Bless you little girl.   We have to be grateful for all the doctors and scientists out there producing these medicines for all of us.  We are living in a generation where anything is possible.

Thank you to all of you for your concern and caring and prayers. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

This is our Rachel

The last few months have been worrisome.  Since last spring, our 9 year old granddaughter, Rachel, has been feeling ill.  It started out with a rash on different parts of her body and just feeling punk.   The rash would go away and there would be a few weeks with no symptoms.  Rachel was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy when she was 2.  So thinking she was getting another food allergy, foods were eliminated, added back, and nothing seemed to fit a pattern. 

The pediatrician seemed baffled, tried her on Prednisone, Tylenol, antihistamines, and nothing seemed to make the rash stay away.  In December, symptoms seemed to escalate.  It started with a stinging pain in her index finger.  She had ankle and wrist pain and thought it was from sledding.  She looked pale, itchy scalp, lost weight and was not hungry.  Not only was there more of a rash, stomach pains and leg pains, but also Rachel was spiking a high fever.  She started having more anxiety because of being different because of the rash on her face.   Going to school was difficult, not only because of the pain and not feeling well, but because she attracted attention because of her rash.  High fevers and pain kept her up most nights.  It was always worse at night. 

A visit to Emergency found a new doctor who also was not quite sure what was going on.  He thought perhaps it was arthritis, but the test results did not confirm this.

Again, back to the pediatrician who suggested a visit to a pediatric arthritis specialist.  There was a wait to get into Mayo but a friend of my daughter has a son who was diagnosed with the juvenile arthritis several years ago and she suggested a doctor at Children's Hospital.  They were able to get in fairly soon.

Blood work was taken, information was given and absorbed and then a wait for more blood work the following week to see if there had been an improvement.  Blood work had not stabilized.  Forms of treatment were discussed.  The drug chosen by the doctor was Actemra.  Two injections a month for 1 1/2 to 2 years.  Usually, usually, children go into remission quickly with this drug.

Weekly blood draws were the worst for Rachel.  Now she takes them like a pro.   Rachel's mom, Erika, is a nurse, so the injections will rest in her able hands.  Today was picked for the first injection so she can be closely watched at home for any side effects.  She will still need weekly blood draws since this is an immune suppressant drug.  There are risks.  We simply can't pray hard enough or long enough for success with this drug.

Rachel has gotten a lot of support from her mother's friends, her godmother, Kamber, and family sending gifts and cards, her school counselor and teachers.  Today is a new month and hopefully a new normal for Rachel.  

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is something you hear little of.  There are only 300,000 children in the world who developed this autoimmune disease.  I personally know of one other child who has gone into remission from this disease.  To our knowledge, there is no one on either side of the family who has ever had arthritis.  It is not known if it is inherited, but that is always where you first look.

I just want to bring some awareness to this childhood disease.  I know I have learned a lot in the last year, reading all I can about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  It is simply amazing to me how the drugs for this disease have improved in the last 10 or 12 years.  Let's just pray that Rachel will improve and be able to adjust quickly to the changes in her life.  I love you Rachel.   Hugs from Grandma Susie.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Very Special Weekend

Several years ago while in SW France, we decided to drive into Spain, to the Catalonia region,  to see the Salvador Dali museum.  After crossing the border and stopping for a lunch of mussels and wine we continued for a short time along the craggy coastline, weaving in and out of jutting land with the ocean on our left.  Finally we came to our senses.  This is not going to least not that day.  We turned around and headed back into France.

Nonetheless, the desire to see the original work of Salvador Dali never left our minds.  Fast forward to the present time.  We now live within an hour of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  No excuses now and certainly no wavy coastline to follow.

Today is The Trout's birthday.  We decided to step out of our comfort box, our own kitchen, and headed to St. Pete for the weekend.  We found a very cute boutique hotel that we would certainly visit again.  The Hollander Hotel in downtown St. Pete is an old building, refurbished and a nice change from the modern hotels and motels available to tourists.

It was a cool Florida day, but we walked a lot this weekend.  Went down along the wharf toward the St. Pete Saturday Farmer's Market.  Anything and everything you would ever need or want was available in this bustling place.  The Trout quickly made a friend with this young lady.  She is a fixture here every Saturday, dancing her heart out.  She could not convince The Trout to dance though.

A quick walk a little further took us to the Dali Museum.

 It was quite crowded, but so worth our time.  Salvador Dali was a very interesting individual.  I would suggest that the free headphones that come with the price of admission are so well worth it.  The paintings were explained in great detail.  He painted in 3-D or double imagining painting.  A favorite of mine was "Hallucinogenic Toreador."  Since photos were not allowed to be taken in the museum, I have taken this one from the Internet to let you get a glimpse.

Salvador Dali - Toreador - Poster

Study the second Venus de Milo from the right.  The green skirt is the toreador's tie, go up and spot his chin, nose and his eye is in the head of Venus.  Down in the left is the head of the bull.  Many, many stories are found in this painting.  In fact, when our friends come down in March for spring break, we plan to take them there.  We liked it that much. 

Also in the museum was a visiting display of Andy Warhol.  We have seen these before when we visited The Centre Pompidou in Paris.  The only one I really wanted to see was "Marilyn" and that painting was not there.  As you can tell, I am not that much of a fan.

So then to dinner in a restaurant that The Trout actually read about in The New York Times.  Rococo in a new restaurant that just opened in October.  It is housed in the former YWCA which was formerly a funeral home. 

 This is a very nice restaurant with many employees waiting to please you.  It was nice attention and we had a very enjoyable evening.  We dined on grass fed beef which was our choice.  Corn fed beef was also available.  As a rule, we rarely order steak in a restaurant because we enjoy preparing it at home to our tastes.  But we have to say, this was outstanding.

It was a great weekend in a small town that we have forgotten about.  So glad we found St. Pete.  I know we will be back.  It has recovered its downtown nicely.

 Happy 70th Birthday, Dale, aka The Trout.  May there be many more good and healthy years ahead. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mini Greek Lamb Burgers

The Trout and I usually plan our menu for the week on the weekends before we head to the markets.  I had this taste for lamb burgers which I truly love and have not eaten in quite a while.  We have two recipes we have made several times, but I was on the prowl for a new one.  I found one from Martha Stewart and it tasted really, really good.  I will make it again, but with a few changes.

I like the fact that the mini burgers are placed into pita bread halves.  I will add some fresh mint to the lamb itself next time.  The combination of the fresh parsley and oregano from our garden was perfect, but since I put mint in the Tzatziki sauce, I thought it could also go into the meat mixture.

We are finding ground lamb more and more in our supermarkets.  This was prepacked and sealed and the label actually said it was from Franklin, Wisconsin.  American raised lamb from a great state.  So prefer this over lamb that has traveled from New Zealand.  Pricey....kind of.  This was $7.99 a pound.  I only used one pound and added all the ingredients as if it was 1 1/2 pounds as the recipe calls for.  I got 8 mini lamb burgers for $8.  It served the two of us and there is enough left over for lunch.  Enjoy, because I know we loved this special treat.

Mini Greek Lamb Burgers
Courtesy of Martha Stewart

For Tzatziki Sauce:

1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated  (I used a regular cuke)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and Pepper

In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, mint and garlic, season with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lamb Burgers:

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (see my notes above about using 1 pound)
1/2 small onion, minced (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
Salt and Pepper

4 pieces of pita bread, 6 inches each
Sliced or chopped Roma tomatoes

In a medium bowl combine lamb, onion, parsley and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper.  Gently form into 16 small patties, about 3/4 inch thick.  (Out of my 1 pound of lamb, I formed 8 patties about 2 inches in diameter.)

Grill until medium rare, 2-3 minutes per side.  Can also use a grill pan indoors.

Warm the pitas on the grill or over a gas burner, turning occasionally.  Halve the pitas and fill with each half with 2 burgers, tomato and tzatziki.  Delicious.