Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
In less than two minutes the view of Mt Baldy faded from breathtaking to whatever.
That opportunity was gone. But I turned around and saw the sky on fire.
The sky wasn't the same- but it was just as breathtaking.
Tonight the family comes in to honor the niece who flew in from Portland. Not the best time for the dishwasher to fail. But it did. To spend a moment in disappointment is a waste of time.
A day and a half of research and one day of shopping, the new dishwasher is ordered. It will be here in January, too late for the massive cleaning needed for Plan A dinner.
So then menu was pulled out and a Plan B puts me on the road this afternoon to pick up what will be made for, more than made, by me
Waldorf salad from Albertson's
Pasta Sardinia tossed with toasted pine nuts, mozzarella shreds and shaved Pecorino Parmesan cheese (already on hand from Claro's ItalianMarket).
Flame Roasted Artichoke platter from Lucille's BBQ Restaurant
Smoked Turkey- Orchard's Fresh Market will pop the fresh bird they were holding for us in their smoker.
Baklava from Claro's
Fudge and English Toffee (already made)
Rocky Road and Pralines and Cream Ice Cream from Baskin- Robbins.
One pot. One skillet. A little bit of driving. I suspect no one is going to miss that I did not spend 2 days running between the market, the kitchen and our smoker. The food will be abundant and good. The family will all be here. I might even clear the china and crystal off the table and switch to paper plates.
In the coming year, promise yourself to spend less time on "If only." That little phrase is debilitating. It will keep you from appreciating what, "What is."
Upper photo- Diamond Bar Blvd at Grand, unretouched.
Lower photo- Danny does some sidewalk advertising for Orchard's Fresh on the Blvd in Whittier before Christmas.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Planning is easy once people and place are determined. Likes, dislikes and medical restrictions of guests are too cheerful a task to call a chore.
Menus for each of the major meals were submitted for input and approval by my husband. When last seen, he was salivating.
Now comes gathering ingredients. Meat properly aged but never frozen yields the best flavor and taste. At Orchard's Fresh Market in Whittier, Danny has two orders logged. One for pick-up before Christmas. The other for after. Do you have a butcher who will do that for you?
This is what is planned for Christmas Day Dinner
French Onion Soup
Baby White Corn
Braised Yukon Potatoes
Horseradish- Crusted Beef Tenderloin
Crème Brulee and Assorted Cookies with hot beverages
At their annual Holiday Party, Matt and Debbie Rezvani introduced us to a delightful Merlot from Napa Valley by Michael Pozzan. Graced with notes of rich berries wrapped in a satiny smooth finish, its peppery bite is both light and distinctive. That punch of flavor is interesting enough to hold up to the tenderloin without being too aggressive.
The value of the wine is shockingly superb. Michael Pozzan Merlot Spec Reserve '06 (750 ML) tastes every bit as good as many a $30 - $40 bottle. However, at BevMo, this measurably fine wine is regularly priced at $16.99- but today, the store was willing to part with it for just $9.99.
Orchard's Fresh Food's Motto is "The way Things Used to Be." Try them. You will think it is the way things should be. Clean, friendly, delicious. Check 'em out at http://orchardsfresh.com/home.html
For BevMo info on Pozzan wine- click on- http://www.bevmo.com/Shop/ProductDetail.aspx?D=Pozzan+Merlot&Ntx=mode%2bmatchall&Dx=mode%2bmatchall&Ntk=All&Nty=1&Ntt=Pozzan+Merlot&N=0&ProductID=3715
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Mice, I might rather eat, if they look like this:
Niece Alden made this adorable mouse with my mother in-law. A chocolate kiss head, almond slivered ears and a maraschino cherry dipped in chocolate for the body compose the start of an infestation of the most delightful kind.
Merry Christmas! May the holiday- whatever name it goes by in your home, be magic!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Yesterday's home agenda was marked to decorate outside. But God had better plans. He opened the heavens, the angels throwing .94 inches of loving wet kisses to all which blooms here.
We rarely get frost, let alone snow- but our summer heat often turns fuchsias to mulch. This Fuchsia 'fulgens' blooms right outside my study window. It came packed in a suitcase from my pilgrimage to Annie's Annuals. Over a year: it has proven not be as delicate as it appears. Omnipresent sepals call in hummingbirds for a spot of nectar year 'round.
Fuchsia 'fulgens' isn't in stock at Annie's at the moment- but you can wish list them: Annie's never forgets to contact you.
This year, a smaller rosemary tree was chosen to hold the gingerbread and candy ornaments in the kitchen. Because it leaves more of my meager counter space clear, this leaner tree has proven useful in setting up food courses to help ourselves from at dinnertime as the counter isn't so overwhelmed .
Does cool weather entice you to the kitchen? It does me.
This morning, the oven hissed a little as it warmed the cast iron skillet, until they were both 350 degrees.
Baking potatoes were bathed and dried and poked a bit before the microwave performed a bit of culinary foreplay.
Not quite cooked, the spuds were willingly sliced in to not raw, yet still firm, 1/2" rounds. These were anointed in EVOO then spread on the skillet hot from the oven.
Salt from the sea and a bit of Lawry's Seasoned Pepper were sprinkled with a light touch.
I would love to say the discovery of the seasoned pepper was intentional. Alas, I was in a hurry and not wearing glasses at the grocery store.
What a happy accident this discovery has been. It is just the right grind, with just enough oomph, to make one of those slight, but definite improvements that which leaves tasters wondering "What's your secret?"
I digress. The potatoes go onto the skillet in a single layer, into the oven. The door is closed and you can do whatever you wish until the buzzer goes off- 10 or 15 minutes for a small batch.
When you peek, look for the upside to be photogenically browned. Flip the potatoes, sprinkle with a bit more salt and seasoned pepper and set the buzzer again for 10 to 15 minutes: from how long the first side took, it will be slightly less that half that length of time. When the top is nicely browned, get ready to serve right away.
Eat these hot and it will be love at first bite. The outsides, crisp: the inside fluffy.
From my house to yours- Merry Christmas and Seasoned Greetings.
Sign up for Annie's wish list at http://www.anniesannuals.com/
The seasoned pepper is regularly stocked at our little Albertson's market on Diamond Bar Blvd at Grand Ave.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Part of my passion for Christmas decorating is rebellion. Growing up, my father always chose a tree so embarrassingly scraggly, it would have shamed Charlie Brown to be seen with it. If such things were held, it could have easily won the contest for worst tree in the city. In today's dollars, dad probably paid $1.99 for the whole thing.
In contrast, his brother, Uncle Frank, was totally impractical about the Christmas Tree. He not only bought an extravagant tree- tall enough to reach the ceiling and flocked. One year, after the holiday, the men went outside with their shotguns and shot off all the ornaments. I envied Frank's family.
However, I didn't wish to start anew each holiday. For me, a Christmas tree should be hung with memories.
It is a gift to have a husband who understood my primal desire to decorate tree. Even though he doesn't quite understand the obsession.
Gerry loves the scent of a fresh tree. Pine makes me sneeze and sent the vacuum annually to the repair shop to recover from the holidays. Until the year Gerry came home from a business trip to find standing in the living room a lavishly pre-lit fresh cut Christmas tree from Roger's Gardens. 1,000 white lights is an elegant start.
But I am more cheery than elegant. Woven up and down each arm of the tree, 900 colored mini bulbs additionally adorn the boughs with the magic of color.
Our first Christmas together, I bought beriboned pine cones to hang on the tree. My new husband had difficulty comprehending his bride would pay for what could be found on the ground. I couldn't believe that he thought anything which would look so natural hanging on a tree was anything but smart.
Every year since, a few ornaments have been added.
Some are homemade. The hanging ornament Gerry made is precious even though it was fashioned from scrap.
The pickle ornament sparks competitive joy. There is a special gift for the family member who spots it when we exchange family gifts. Even though the gift might be just extra candy as a reward doesn't make the ritual less fun.
A ship in the bottle- so fragile- so imaginative- what could be more romantic?
Santa as a fisherman, bears kissing, snowflakes falling- every decoration has meaning profoundly personal. Which makes the tree decidedly romantic. A perfect symbol of my favorite type of Christmas.
Please share about your Christmas tree. In your fantasies, how would you decorate it? What would you like visitors to learn about you from the Christmas tree of your dreams?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
When I was in high school, she was told to get her affairs in order. I tease her because she never had even one " affair" to put in order.
My mother is my hero because she lived my one rule. Do what is right.
Her own mother died in childbirth. Her earliest memory is of her aunties getting her all dressed up- taking her to the orphanage- and even the home for unwanted children didn't want her.
The aunt with 10 children- my mother thought, how much more trouble would be 2 more? Evidently enough, that my mother and her barely older brother were left in the care of the spinster Aunt.
Mama was offered a post-graduate scholarship. But in those days, it wasn't proper for the little sister to accept such an advantage unless the older child was also so accommodated.
My mother wanted to be a physical therapist. So the petite Latina flew from Puerto Rico to the land of English as the only language. She enlisted as a Navy Wave. Working as a vocational therapist, she met the tall, dark haired and handsome George Lent after his arm was broken by an ethnic gang which jumped him.
They married. Nine months and two weeks later- their first child was born.
This week my mother turned 87. She received her favorite gifts: a grandchild sang to her, some company and flowers.
Happy Birthday, Mama. We never expected you to be around so long. We are blessed beyond words that you did.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
" Like a shop laden with merchandise, she brings home food from far off."
- Proverbs 31: 14
When we married Gerry was sort of the Brawny paper towel guy who worked as a mild mannered engineer. This Thanksgiving, he made a simple request this Christmas. He wanted to have the guys from work over for a lunch. The next week.
Some women would kill a husband for suggesting she "put on the dog" on such short notice. Not me. This kind of request is grade A prime excuse to decorate and shop. To be a one woman economic stimulus plan requiring no taxpayer dollars. To bring good cheer to many a merchant. Our guests. My husband. Of course, not necessarily in that particular order...
5 nights later, Weather woman Jackie Johnson is predicting good fortune. Our December weather the next day will be typical Southern California. Perfect for barbecuing and eating on the patio. Gerry insisted I stop preparing. "Guys do not care if you wash the floor under the refrigerator or hang a new wreath in the kitchen."
When the guys arrived. The halls were decked. None of the men knew that six days of obsessive decorating had not yet emptied all the boxes in the attic of balls and ribbons and lights. They did notice was that with all his guy gadgets: Gerry must have a a very understanding wife.
And they noticed the food.
Baked cheese balls stuffed with green olive Green olive and pimiento stuffed cheese balls.
Deviled eggs & vegetable platter
Salad of butter lettuce and baby spinach, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, glazed walnuts and bits of feta cheese. Served with Italian style vinaigrette.
Potatoes scalloped in sour cream sauce with chives
Crab cakes with tartar sauce
Prime rib eye steaks, marinated and grilled.
Bristol Farms makes the best crab cakes. So my husband tells me (I don't eat seafood- but I buy it for the "brownie points" I get). Their fresh tartar sauce is better than what the local grocery stores pawns in glass jars. The butcher at their Newport counter almost made me forget I don't like seafood with his mouth watering description of crab legs- but I distracted him by letting him pick out finely marbled rib eye steaks with an eye as practiced as a jeweler's.
Tiramisu. This Italian classic is Gerry's favorite dessert. Pizzaioli just over the border in Chino Hills makes an exceptional version every morning with delicate lady fingers soaked in espresso coffee, rum, and Frangelico layered with mascarpone cheese whipped with Kahlua then presented with a dusting of finest ground dark chocolate.
At the end of the day, our guests gone: my feet are up, my body pooped but my mind is relaxed. I understand that day I already have what I most want for Christmas. A happy husband.
Bristol Farms homepage http://www.bristolfarms.com/home.html
Pizzaioli homepage http://pizzaioli.us/
The salad recipe is my own, but if you need inspriation, please hop over to where I borrowed the fruit photo from at http://pomwonderful.com/recipes/category/chef-series
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The winter social season actually kicked off a few weeks ago with the Diamond Bar Community Foundation Gala. The photo above is of our sons, Kenny and Trevor Plunk, with their dates, the lovely Shannon R Morris and the enchanting Amy Lamping.
However, I cannot let the season go one more minute without mentioning this wonderful event where the community acknowledges individuals and corporations who give of themselves, willingly and generously.
Past honorees have included:
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe. A man who proves politicians can have backbone and heart.
Matt Rezvani and BP America- who exemplify corporate honesty and willing responsibility.
This year's honoree is Majestic Real Estate. Here's my New Year's Resolution. In the New Year, I promise to write why I have come to admire this firm. It will be a story not about corporate greed, but about corporate generosity.
In the mean time- If it is your faith- Say Merry Christmas wherever you go. Share the joy!
"Family" photo courtesy of Trisha Bowler.
Tornado photo courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration