Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Obsessing about Citrus

Once, no, three times, I attempted to grow citrus on this patio. The plants came from California, and grew for a while, partly on the deck, partly indoors during the cool and wet winter months. And every time these small trees flowered, they fueled my hope for a harvest of juicy Meyer lemons or limes with the accompanying smiles and visions of Margarita drinks and ultimate relaxation.

Not that I ever entertained during my California or Florida days with Margarita drinks!

Somehow, I wanted that vision to become reality.

Somehow, I spared no expenses in getting the plants, the proper fertilizer, and even heated a drafty sun-room during the long winter wait for sun and warmth. Did I mention expensive? The house did not come with a sun-room!

Now, I buy my Meyers and my lime at whatever price whenever I'm tempted to grow citrus again. By my accounting, I have spent less on these fruit all winter long, for the last five years, than a month of heating bills to keep that darn sun-room heated.

Nothing, however, will take away the desire to have a heavily scented citrus tree in the house during the long grey, wet, dreary, and cold winter months.

How about you? What are you still obsessing about?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Returning to my roots

When I was little, we lived simply, with food we grew and stored. Most of our meals consisted of pasta (if you didn't guess where I grew up) and greens, and an occasional taste of meat. We grew and canned our own tomatoes and tomato paste, made our own sausages, and grew a variety of legumes to last us all winter long. We made our own bread and pizza too. Very few meals needed ingredients or spices that came from the local store.

So, with such background, you'd think it would be easy for me to cook vegetarian meals at my daughter's house. Absolutely! I did think though that I would miss the sausage in the meat ragu, the chicken in the fajita, and the ground beef in the chile. I did not.

What I did, before I even left the house to be with my daughter and her new baby, I made a list of meals that I could adapt easily.  Instead of meat, I used mushrooms and more herbs to flavor my sauces; Instead of eliminating a dish, I adapted it to adjust to a vegetarian lifestyle.

These are the meals I prepared:

Minestrone, Lasagna, Pasta primavera, Provencal Tan, Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Basil, Split Pea soup, Crepes with savory ricotta, Lentil Soup, Falafel,  Risotto with peas and spinach, Kale and beans, Burritos with spinach, rice and beans, Roasted root veggie chips with hummus, Cabbage, potatoes, onions and peas casserole, Tabbouleh salad with fresh basil, parsley, pine nuts, Citrus salad with pecans, Apple and carrot salad, Farro with cauliflower and walnuts, Pizza and vegetable soup, Eggplant parmigiana, Mixed Greens, beans, rice and roasted peppers enchilada.............................................................

I made enough for dinner to have leftovers for lunch.
Salads and cheese quesadillas were the back up lunches.
Cereals, eggs, pancakes and granola were the breakfast choices.

I relearned lessons I had as a child, to think on my feet and combine what I had in the refrigerator to put a meal together. The Provencal Tan was such a meal: Odds and ends, more zucchini than potatoes or eggplant,  layered with onions instead of leeks and baked in a very hot oven
turned out to be a very tasty dish for supper with brown rice on the side; and a sandwich filler the next day with a slice of cheese.  It didn't hurt to have the internet around for recipes such as the granola, the Filafel, even banana muffins when too many bananas needed to be used up.

None of these dishes were new to me.
I just had to return to my roots to get into the groove.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

And life goes on...

I see my mother in myself at this time of life, when she came to America during the time I was pregnant with Brian.  She even looked as I do. She was as burdened with ailments as I am. Yet, the joy, the joy of a new life was the same.

Not once did I hear her complain about the baby's crying bouts, the many chores that needed done with a newborn and two other children. She jumped right in, and was most helpful,  especially at a time when people did not get the benefit of paternity leave.

I'm enjoying every minute holding my new grand-baby Nico. (He is named after his two maternal grandfathers, Joseph Domenico. I was a little surprised and most proud to hear this news. The tradition of naming children after their grandparents might still exist in some parts of the world; but here in America, we all break new ground by constantly concocting new names to bestow our offspring. This child nods toward his ancestors and his roots in a big way. I may have to write another memoir to capture my father's life more fully for Nico's sake.

Nico's parents are musicians/songwriters/teachers. His grandfather Domenico was a musician/singer always ready with a song at the slightest opportunity. I remember vividly the times I would be lulled to sleep by one of his songs; or the times he and his mother would liven up a party with a song and a dance.

Ninna, nanna, Little One. May the songs and love of your ancestors guide your sleep and every waking moment of your life.