Friday, August 18, 2017

26 Bettswood Rd

This is the house I grew up in.  That all six of us grew up in.  Aside from a short stint up the street and the two years we spent in Korea, this was it from when my parents bought it in 1966 until they downsized and sold it in 2001.  
 It is a wonderful house.   Big yard, huge basement, fantastic screened in porch.  The upstairs that was strictly the girls' zone - where my parents rarely appeared, thank God.  

The house is a part of nearly every memory from my childhood and so many of our family pictures.

 It boasted fabulous 70's decor for the bulk of my childhood.
I mean, can you even stand it?  Dad!  All those girls!  That couch!  The orange shag rug!  
I guess my childhood really was a long time ago...
I win the prize for the most bizarre and unflattering outfit in this one. I mean.....
 in the epic yard with our epic dog, Yobo.
 This photo, in addition to showcasing Dad's impressive 1970's sideburns, illustrates why our childhoods are so well documented. 
 The Littles in the den
  the littles in the living room, rockin the outfits.
the gang in the living room

I went to Connecticut a couple weeks ago  to visit my mom and spend time with a few of my sisters and took a deep dive down memory lane.  Living far from home, I don't get to do that much and, with three sisters in the house, we dove into old photo albums. I even got the old reel-to-reel projector up and running and we watched home movies from the 70's.  Classic and wonderful.  

We also had the unbelievable opportunity to walk through the doors of 26 Bettswood Rd again, as the current owners are moving and the house is for sale.  What a trip.  
It was sometimes very disorienting - I'd turn a corner and the living room felt so familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. 
But it looked great. 
The current owners have made some wonderful improvements and the house is beautiful.   
The laundry room is now an eat-in sunroom and the kitchen, even sans the yellow mushroom wallpaper, looks fantastic. 

The den still has the liquor closet dad made. 
   The porch is still epic.
 My room!

When we peeked into the storage area upstairs, we hit the jackpot.  Finally,  evidence we actually had lived there!

that, and the boot bin dad made in the basement, which was otherwise stripped back to its original, unfinished state. 

Nostalgia and joy permeated the trip.  That, and the incredible, delicious, foundational experience of a Lebanese feast.  Mom had lobbied, initially, for a simpler meal, it being summer, etc.  But the Corey sisters prevailed and it was a group effort and we killed it.  

Julie was in charge of the kousa.
 She used the squash scraper tool that, I learned, my dad had specially made for the job.
 Mom made her usual, amazing, killer kibbee.  No-one makes kibbee like my mom. 
 Julie and I chopped and cleaned and stuffed and seasoned for hours, in our pj's.
 MaryBeth made the filling for the wadda - (stuffed grape leaves to those not in the know.)
 And Ellie brought the grape leaves, picked from her yard in New London, and stuffed them. 
 We missed Jacquie and Ann terribly. 
But we had ourselves a feast, yes we did. 
                              Billy H took the money picture of the night, as per. 

 I'm feeling the nostalgia, friends.   
Perhaps it's this big birthday that looms on Monday.  
Or perhaps it's just gratitude that I got to slip through the portal that leads to my childhood for a weekend.  The shag rugs are gone, but the great vibe of laughter and love and opera and dodge ball and Ravioli-Simmons and Halloween and family reunions and the Cronins and ping pong and dad's workshop and dinners around the oval and all-those-girls will greet the next lucky buyers.  I wish them the happiest of memories there- I know I have mine. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Can we all agree that the Mediterranean diet is superior in every way?  We can?  Good, that's decided.  Lebanese of course wins top prize.  duh.  But those Greeks know what's up in the food department, as do their brethren across the Ionian/Adriatic.  This week was an explosion of yummy Mediterranean love.
Image result for greece and italy

At book club a couple weeks ago my friend Sheila Kaminski (hi Sheila!) served one of those meals in which every bite just explodes with flavor. She is a pro and I expect a lot from dinner at her house, but wow, she served these Greek meatballs that blew my mind.  (Sheila: Stop calling them chicken balls!)

So I googled some Greek (meat)balls recipes and found this one, and made the full recipe for me, Doug and Noah while Dylan was at football camp.  It makes two dozen. I  had four leftover!  So I served it again for some friends this week.  Friends - you will not regret it.

But here's the best part: all the herbs used in this recipe came from ETHS!  I signed up for their CSA boxes this summer - every Thursday I stop by the kitchen loading dock and pick up a box.  It's been a cooking challenge - there's only so much one can do with radishes and turnips, in my humble opinion, but the herbs and greens have been AMAZING.  So all the dill, parsley and mint in this recipe came from our own, beloved Evanston Township High School gardens.  How cool is that?

Where were we?  Oh, Greek balls!  They're from JuicyBites, which is a terrific food blog. (Is it ok to re-blog a food blogger?  I think it is, as long as you give credit where credit is due, right?)

Here we go:
Preheat oven to 400.
Mix 1/3 cup whole milk with 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs until the liquid is absorbed.
  • 2 pounds ground chicken (preferably organic)
  • 1 small onion, chopped very small
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves (about a handful of leaves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • a few turns of fresh ground pepper
  Mix well until all of the ingredients are combined.  Shape about 3 tablespoons of the chicken into a balls (this is a messy process – a little water on your hands helps the chicken from sticking) and put on a baking sheet lined with foil and coated with non-stick cooking spray. 
 Bake for about 20-25 minutes, turning them over half way through (test at 20 min to see if they are done on the inside).
 Serve with Ina's Tzaziki Sauce
Makes about 2 dozen Meatballs

For a side dish, and in keeping with the theme, I served Rhee Drummond's
It's even better the next day!!

You're welcome.  xoxo

Friday, July 14, 2017

Lake life

Last week was our annual trip to the north woods of Wisconsin, where my husband's family has a wonderful place on North Twin Lake.  We swam, we skied, we tubed, we pontooned, we kayaked, we SUP'd, we read, we played Euchre and Scrabble and Chronology, we watched movies, we read books, we ran, we biked.  Uncle John led the annual fireworks display.  And before anyone else got there Doug, Dylan and I went to the big 4th of July shindig in downtown Phelps and witnessed something called a Chicken Drop.  Wow.  Google it.  The look on my 16-year-old's face? Priceless!

And, as usual, we ate and drank extremely well.    I didn't take enough pictures but here, for your planning or cooking or drinking pleasure, were last week's menus:  

2017 Summer Phelps Menu

Sunday 7/2:  Arrivals—13 peeps  

Monday 7/3:  14 peeps

Tuesday 7/4:  13 peeps

Wednesday 7/5: 13 peeps 
Chicken Chimichurri-  rosemary roasted potatoes, steamed green beans, lemon cake

Thursday 7/6: 13 peeps
Cook’s night off – Alexander's pizza

Friday 7/7:  14peeps
14 peeps  slow roasted ribs (recipe below), corn black bean salad, watermelon, apple crisp

Saturday 7/8
Baked Mostaccioli, green salad, garlic bread, ice cream shop

Fall-off-the-bone, Slow Roasted Baby-back Ribs:

Baby back ribs - approx 1/2 slab per person.  
(For 14 people we had 18 slabs and every bite was gone)

Soak the ribs overnight in Coke.  It's the key!  My sister Julie taught me this trick - it tenderizes the meat.  

In the morning, drain the coke and place the ribs rib-side-up in a roasting pan (position the ribs so they're not sitting on the bottom of thepan and the eventual grease:  arc the ribs so the meat is up and away from bottom.)

Cover them with some bbq sauce.  We use Sweet Baby Ray's original.  Don't let them swim in it, but do make sure each slab is covered in sauce.   For 18 slabs we used about three jars of bbq sauce.

Cover tightly with foil and cook in a 300 degree oven all day - about 8 hours.
 You can uncover for the last half hour if you like them a little crispier.

Using tongs, lift the ribs out of the sauce/grease and place on a platter, cut them into sections of three or four ribs, arrange them all on a big messy platter and throw some extra sauce on top and to pass on the side.  They will fall off the bone and it's a huge mess but never fear, because it's KILLER!

And, of course, we have a new favorite summer cocktail. Also killer, but in a different way.

Easy gin-punch recipe

Limmer's punch
Prep: 10 minutes
Makes: 12 cocktails, about 5 ounces each
Orange blossom water is available at Whole Foods and other major grocery stores, plus liquor stores.

1 bottle (750 milliliters) gin
10 ounces fresh lemon juice
10 ounces rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water), see note
Orange blossom water, to taste
1 bottle (750 milliliters) sparkling water, chilled
Lemon wheels
Combine gin, lemon juice and syrup in a punch bowl; stir to blend. Add orange blossom water to taste, then stir. Add large block of ice and top with chilled sparkling water. Garnish with lemon wheels.

Rich simple syrup: Heat two parts sugar and 1 part water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool before using.

Limmer's punch — for one
Prep: 5 minutes
Makes: 1 drink
2 ounces gin
2 ounces sparkling water, chilled
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 ounce rich simple syrup
1 dash orange blossom water
Lemon slice
Shake all ingredients, except the lemon slice, with ice and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.

 Happy Summer!


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

La boda y el viaje

Back to reality after 10 days in Europe - Spain, France & Italy - I am still in a post-vacation fog.  But I offer these early observations:

Weddings are magical, particularly when they involve people you love dearly - like our niece Becca and her husband Kalle - and when they take place in a fantastically magical place, like a castle in Spain:

Cava is delicious.

as are these two new favorite summer drinks:

The drink is prepared with prosecco (or champagne) wine, a dash of some bitter liqueur such as Aperol, Campari, Cynar, or, especially in Venice, with Select. The glass is then topped off with sparkling mineral water. It is usually served over ice in a lowball glass (or sometimes a martini glass or wine glass) and garnished with a slice of orange, or sometimes an olive, depending on the liqueur.

Tinto de Verano - Definitely the drink of the trip.
Put a few ice cubes in a wine glass and fill halfway with red wine.
Add either
-sprite, if you like it sweet
-a dash of lemonade/sprite then some sparkling water
-a little slice of orange to make it purdy and even more yum.

Everyone enjoyed tinto.

Spaniards never go to sleep.  The DJ started at midnight!

Collioure, in France, was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. 
 I wish we had stayed longer.

Driving across France and getting stuck for hours in a french traffic jam is sub-optimal.  Arles was lovely, but one should never ever try to navigate its old-city streets in a large BMW.  But you might see this scene as you're wandering through its streets,

and we had the best meal of the trip here.

Rome is so enchanting, such an intoxicating and delightful mix of appreciating the past and living in the moment.  Did you know that in addition to the fact the colliseum is a 60,000 seat, four-storied stadium built in the ancient world, it had a retractable cover?  For real!  And Rome was the one city with plentiful, free water spouts everywhere.  Why?  Because the Romans built aqueducts two thousand years ago.  Those Romans were geniuses.
Apollo and Daphne still make me weep. 
 The pantheon is, well, perfect.  And Trastevere is the best neighborhood.

Barcelona offers such a sensory wallop.  Gorgeous art, amazing architecture, fantastic food, delicious drinks and a totally jubilant vibe.

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is stunning.

Tapas made me sigh with joy.
Tinto and sangria made me, well, you know.  
and My family made it perfect.