Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mom's No-Bake Fudge

With Halloween a week away, this is an easy recipe you can make for that Halloween party you've been "dying" to have. GET IT??? LOL Sorry, couldn't resist a bad joke. Or you could make it for a holiday party or hostess gift. Anyway, I wanted to make this over the summer but obviously the heat and humidity would've melted that idea. HAHAHA! (Forgive my other bad joke.)

Mom made this during the holidays and my sister also makes this recipe with great success for her annual Halloween party. The nice thing about it is that it's easy enough to add marshmallows or nuts without messing up the recipe. Almost fool proof. So this fool ...  ***ME*** ... decided to whip up a batch of fudge and see how it turned out.

Mixed fudge ready to chill!
It came out great. It was pretty sweet. I did have some difficulty getting it out of the pan. I had to bang on the bottom of the pan with a meat tenderizer until the fudge popped out. Scratch one dented 8 inch pan. I brought some into my coworkers and no one died so SUCCESS!!!!

Now technically this is not baking but it is a dessert type recipe. I have a fear of baking and as a result have put off trying to make any of Mom's dessert recipes involving baking. My goal for the fall and winter is to over come my fear of baking and finally complete them. Wish me luck but before you try something I bake, you may wanna have some Tums on hand...

by Abby Deeds

1- 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
3 - 6 oz bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or the equivalent of 1 1/2 12 oz bags)
8 oz chopped nuts (your choice, optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
dash of salt
Mini marshmallows (optional)

1. Over low heat, melt chocolate morsels with the sweetened condensed milk.
2. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. (I used chopped pecans.)
3. Spread evenly in a wax paper lined 8 inch square pan.
4. Chill 2-3 hours until firm. (I covered the top of the fudge with wax paper as well before placing in the fridge.)
5. Turn fudge over onto cutting board and remove from pan. Peel off paper and cut into squares.
6. Store loosely covered at room temperature.
7. Can keep one week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Don't Let Them Rattle You.

***This blog post is dedicated to that close childhood friend going through her own tough times, I hope this helps.

"Don’t let them rattle you. Don't let them see you sweat."


These are two sayings that we have all come to know but how to go about putting them into action? It's easier said than done. But with some hints and prior preparation, one can don that Teflon vest in face of adversity and get through those difficult situations and meetings.


A close friend of mine is going through a divorce. It hasn't gone smoothly for her. Imagine that. :(  I feel for her and sense her stress and anxiety each time a conference comes up with her ex. It's a shame but these conferences have to happen. I wanted to help her so I thought about the tense stressful conferences that I manage on a daily basis with my job. What advice could I impart to her?


My advice was to tell her don't let him rattle you. I guess it's not that easy but it's important that she stand her ground, stand firm to her beliefs, and in this important meeting, don't let her emotions get the best of her.


In my career as a domestic relations officer, I hold conferences about child support, spousal support, and other domestic relations issues involving children, relationships and family. I establish orders and if need be, I enforce them. I prefer not to go into too much detail about my job as obviously I have to safeguard my clients' privacy.


With that being said, my conferences can be very difficult. I am put into many situations where I can be potentially rattled by either an emotional or violent outburst. It is only after years of practicing my profession that I have been able to remain pretty calm, cool, and nonplussed even in these tense and stressful situations.


In this ridiculous election year, no matter whom you are voting for, each party has reduced themselves to try and rattle the other candidate during the televised debates. In the second debate, the Republican candidate Donald Trump attempted to rattle Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton with three women from former President Bill Clinton's past who accused him of sexual misconduct as well as a woman who was raped by a man that Hillary Clinton defended back in the '70s. Hillary Clinton was nonplussed by the move.


In the final debate, Hillary Clinton has invited two "true" billionaires (as she terms it) as her guests, Meg Whitman and Mark Cuban, to try and rattle Donald Trump, a billionaire who has refused to release his Federal taxes citing an IRS audit. Donald Trump has invited President Obama's half-brother, Malik Obama, as his guest to try and rattle Hillary Clinton. Malik Obama has Kenyan and US citizenship and switched his parties from Democrat to Republican over his disappointment with our current President's administration. I wonder who will be rattled? I'm sure both candidates have been schooled in keeping their cool (some better than others). It may sound cliché but it's appropriate to say that this entire election has certainly become a sad state of affairs.


So enough with examples. How do I keep from becoming rattled? Here are some tips that I use which I have found helpful during tense situations:

1. Pump yourself up prior to the meeting, Practice scenarios and the appropriately calm responses to intense questioning.

2. Put it into perspective; there are a lot worse things that could be happening to you at this point.

3. It's just words. I understand that words may be hurtful, but remember they are just words, nothing more, nothing less. You have the power to control your reaction to them. You can either let it rile you up or you can control the situation and remain calm in the face of adversity.

4. Focus on WHAT is being said and not HOW it is being said. It may be a condescending question or answer, but ignore that part of it. Answer the question, calmly, firmly, succinctly, and move on. Don't offer up any further info for the opposing party to latch onto.

5. Take a sip of water to collect your thoughts. Don't react immediately. Take a moment, think, and then state your rebuttal.

6. Don't lower yourself to their level. When they go low, you go high. (Hmm, where did that come from?) Using curse words or throwing verbal darts just exacerbates the situation and makes you look just as bad. Rise above them. (

7. Take a quick break if you have to. Leaving the room is another way to collect your thoughts. It helps defuse the situation and gives each party a bit of time to relax. I will excuse myself to make copies to get a breather, and then come back in, ready to continue and forge ahead.

8. Practice deep breathing. Do this before the event in the comfort of your own space. Think yoga, meditation, etc. This will help you keep your mind, emotions, and response in control when the situation becomes stressful and tense.

9. Your voice may quiver, your hands may shake. THIS IS NORMAL. Again, deep breathes to calm yourself.


And lastly, you can and will get through whatever stressful meeting, conference, or situation or you are. GOOD LUCK.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Beers at the Hosey with Schmidty

Last night I ended up at the hosey for a couple beers. For those of you who don't know, the "hosey" is a regionally colloquial term for the fire house social club. I don't know how it originated, possibly from the word 'fire hose'. I hear it across the Mid-Atlantic states. I usually have to explain it to anyone outside of Jersey or PA.

Chicken of the Sea Sardines
My hosey is the Summit Station Fire Company where I actually bartended for a couple years. When I go there, I see friends, play the games of chance, chill out with the awesome bartenders Snoopy and Janet, and knock back a couple of cheap brews. One of the gambling games you can play  are the punch boards where you get 10 punches for $1.00. You can win prizes such as a large bag of chips, a box of Tasty Cakes, a mini-hunting knife, a jar of tomato sauce, a bottle of laundry detergent and other pretty crazy odd stuff which you may or may not use everyday.  

Last night, my buddy John was on one side of me playing the punch boards for 3 cans of Chicken of the Sea sardines. Now I would've tried the punch board to win a jar of peanut butter, but that's just me. I was hanging out with my good friend John Schmidt on my other side, who also lives in my community, Lake Wynonah, and hangs out at the Lake Wynonah Lodge when I now bartend.

Schmidty (as I call him) will do anything for anyone; he is a true genuinely friend. He's a Vietnam Veteran with a heart of gold and seen things, experienced life to the fullest - the best and the worst. He is an old soul. There are only a couple of other men I consider just as wise as he.

Me n' Schmidty
Schmidty has also become my unofficial volunteer security guy at the Lodge, hanging out patiently until the end to make sure the bartenders are alright. And one more plug for Schmidty, he sings and helped form a Philly doo-wop acapella group, 2nd Chance. Check out their website at .  These guys are so good; they are the Real McCoy when it comes to acapella doo-wop groups!

Anyway, John had just won the three cans of sardines and Schmidty and I began bustin' on his ass for even playing for the them! He shrugged and said he wanted to get them for camping and then I changed my tune because they are actually a really good camping/hiking snack. They are high in minerals, vitamins, healthy fats and contain a whopping 37 grams of protein per 1 cup serving! (You learn something new every day, huh? LOL.)

Schmidty leans over to me and says, "Oh I looove sardines, they are good!"
"Yeah," I began, "they are pretty good, I'm just messing with John. That's actually a good idea, gettin' them for camping. I remember when my brother Adam and I would eat them as kids for an after school snack. We would eat just can after can of them!"
"And Marc, they are so good for you, so healthy," he replied.
"And do you know what the best part of them are, Schmidty?" I asked.
"When my brother and I would eat them, we loved ...."
And we both said at the same time, "CRUNCHING ON THE BONES!"

Schmidty and I started laughing and laughing. We couldn't believe we had the very same strange thought. My memories came flooding back of my brother and I freaking out my sister Sheryl by crunching on the sardine bones and eating them.

Life is full of these incredibly unique and yet odd experiences. And sometimes, you connect with wonderful genuine people you would never expect to like me and Schmidty. Two generations of men, who just enjoy sitting down and conversing about the meaning of life over bottles of beer, laughing (and sometimes crying) about what we've gone through. But MOSTLY laughing. And sometimes talking about ridiculous shared experiences like eating sardine bones.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Twin Towers

This past month marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11, that day of horror where America was forever changed by terrorism with the multiple attacks on our country. I have close friends who were there that crisp September morning. I have friends of friends who lost someone when the Twin Towers fell. Most of us remember where we were that fateful day.

9/11 has become another day in which you ask your friends, "Where were you?" It is reminiscent of the day the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded, the day President Reagan was shot, or for our folks, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. These are days of infamy forever etched in our mind, meant to separate and weaken but they have only succeeded in making us stronger and closer.

Twin Towers  at night, July 2001 (source: Wikipedia)
I have a couple of books on 9/11 and spent the day going through them and watching the historical coverage on TV. The story I want to recount was a special memory I have of the Twin Towers, from the year before.

My memory of the World Trade Center is a rather specifically quirky one. I traveled up to NYC in September 2000, exactly one year before with my best friend David. We were going to spend the evening dining, clubbing and bar hopping, and then take the train back the following day. We traveled up that Monday evening, the 11th of September of 2000,

David and I stayed at the Marriott Downtown Financial Center. now called the New York Marriott Downtown, at 85 West Street in NYC. It was just one half block from the World Trade Center. We had a corner room with an awesome view of the Hudson River. On the other side of the hotel, the Twin Towers loomed overhead to the north.

After some predinner drinks, we ate at a restaurant called Lucky Cheng's on the lower East Side. Lucky Cheng's is a great fun place which hosts an interactive drag show while you eat dinner. The cuisine is Asian fusion with a possible side of insults and great entertainment thrown your way. We had a blast. We the hit the bars and clubs and from what I remember, had quite the evening of merriment and mayhem.

At one point, I got separated from David. Just prior, I remember telling him not to worry if it happened and I'd meet him back at the hotel. At 3:30 AM, I found myself wandering around the Village, not sure actually in which direction the hotel was. I was getting a bit nervous, not being able to find a cab. I was so turned around, I didn't know which way the hotel was! I walked for what seemed like forever, but was probably just a couple more blocks.

Dave and Myself, NYC, Sept 2000
I remember crossing a street and looking across a little pocket park and what did I see off in the distance? The Twin Towers fully lit up at night, shining and rising above all of the buildings. They were a ways off but it was a sign on which direction I needed to go. I let out a deep sign of relief and crisscrossed streets and parks trying the keep the World Trade Center towers in my sights. I eventually was able to hail a cab and made it back to the hotel.

David read me the riot act thinking I was lying dead in the gutter. I took my medicine because that's what best friends are for, right? To let you know when you've fucked up. I was just happy to be back after being lost. I have never forgotten looking up and being to happy so see those gleaming towers even in the middle of the night to lead my way. After sleeping several hours, we got up around 10 AM, checked out, and had brunch nearby.

David and I had such a fun time, we decided to return to NYC the next year, the very same weekend and make it a yearly trip. I booked the reservation at the same hotel one half block away from the World Trade Center for Monday evening, September 10, 2001, and check out September 11, 2001. I don't remember the reason why, but we cancelled the room about a week before. Something had come up. Of course I got through my mind thinking what if??? My thoughts then turn to remember the horror and tragedy which happened to all of those poor souls who lost their lives or were injured that day. G-d bless them.

Well it's been 15 years since the attack. I've been back but I never went back with David. I think its time we take that trip up again and tour the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Two Easy Recipes: Tomato Cucumber Salad and Crisp Rosemary Potatoes

Mom's Tomato Cucumber Salad
Are you ever at a loss for what to make with that grilled steak or chicken? Here are a couple of go-to recipes that I love making in a pinch. Easy, a lot of flavor, and minimal effort. How great is that?  Weekly dinners should always be like this!

The first is a basic recipe my Mom has been making as long as I know. It is the traditional summer tomato cucumber salad. Fresh, cold, zesty, and filling. This recipes combines two of my favorite summer veggies. I usually make a large batch for two or three nights. You can add onion if you want a bit more zestiness to it. But be warned, with the Italian dressing and onions, you may want to make it on the nights you don't have a date planned. :-)  

The second recipe, crisp rosemary potatoes, is my go-to recipe if I am making rosemary chicken or just grilling chicken breast. It is a great side dish!  I prefer to leave the potatoes in to bake for more time as I like them pretty crispy.

Marinated Tomato Cucumber Salad
by Abby Deeds (MOM!)

-6 Roma tomatoes, diced into bite size pieces (or 3 of your favorite large beefsteak variety tomatoes)
-3 cucumbers, peeled and diced into bite size pieces (seeded or not, your preference)
***Thanks to friends Becky Kitchmire for the cucumbers and Leah Emerich for the tomatoes!
-1 small or medium red onion, chopped up fine (optional, or use a sweet vidalia)
-Italian dressing (I used the 4 Seasons dry box mix which you add your own olive oil and vinegar)
-salt and pepper to taste 
Ingredients all ready! 
-fresh basil cut into fine strips (My addition, optional)

You basically want equal parts tomatoes and cucumbers. The onion is completely optional. Realize that if you use a red onion, it will definitely have a stronger more pungent flavor. Add a little onion, taste, add more, taste, etc. Mix all ingredients. Top with basil strips. Cover with plastic wrap in a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serves 2-4 people.

Also remember, you can make your own Italian dressing if you are so inclined. I like the dry box packets or the pre-made bottled dressing because it lessens the prep time. Sometimes, it's all about convenience!

I like mixing up the vinegar and oils I use in this. For the vinegar, besides red wine, you can also try pomegranate or balsamic. For the oils, experiment with regular olive oil, extra virgin, or flavored oils such as lemon, basil, or garlic-infused.

Crisp Rosemary Potatoes
from Gourmet Magazine

-2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
-1 tablespoon olive oil
Crispy Rosemary Potatoes (the crispier the better!) 
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary(I've also used dried and the recipe came out great.)
-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and generously oil 2 large baking sheets
Arrange potatoes in 1 layer on the sheets. 
Brush tops with oil and sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. (I always use alot of rosemary.)
Roast potatoes in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden and edges are crisp, about 20 minutes. Serves 4.
***I usually keep them in longer, checking every 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you like them! 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Three Lucky Memories of my Mom

Mom at 6 yrs (1948)
On August 24th, it was my dear Mother's birthday. She would've been 74. Hope she had a great birthday up there doing shots of her favorite Hot Damn liquor. Maybe she sat on the edge of a cloud in Heaven. spying on her kids while sipping Baileys, she loved that too. I can picture her enjoying herself, listening to some salsa, watching people walk by (if they have such a thing up in heaven). She was a people watcher. 

More recently before she passed in 2009, Mom just loved to sit on my sister Sheryl's front porch in Philly and watch the world walk by. Mom said it reminded her of growing up in Newark, sitting in the front of her building as a child. By now, my readers know that I often tell of memories of her as a sort of a record for my brother and sister and my niece and nephew, Angelica and Johnny as well. One day, I hope it will help them get to know their Nana better. 

Mom grew up in Newark, NJ, in an apartment building on Goldsmith Avenue next to Weequahic Park. It's comforting to know the building is still there. During some of those hot city summers, Nanny and Grandpop sent Mom to Camp Kalmia in Blairstown, NJ. She told me she used to enjoy camp but one evening she almost lost her life. A huge summer thunderstorm rolled through the area taking everyone by surprise. A huge stately maple tree stood next to the cabin soaring into the sky as far as she could see.
Camp Kalmia lake

A building from Camp Kalmia where Mom used to stay.
The strong winds took down that maple tree that stormy evening. The tree fell away from the cabin. If it had fallen into the cabin, it would've smashed right down the center onto where my Mom lay huddled in her sleeping bag hiding from the storm. She was lucky.

Mom also told me of how she was cruising with friends one weekend evening during high school around 1959. She opted to ride in the back area of the rambler station wagon. There was an accident, the car crashed, and she literally flew out the back of the rambler. 

Mom told me she landed on the base of an old oak tree. She was injured but thank G-d did not break her back. She often told me her back continued to hurt her through the years due to this accident. She was lucky though again.

The last story is a funny one. During my Mom's high school years, she was addicted to the dance show by Clay Cole, disc jockey and host of the teenage dance party, The Clay Cole Show, which was the New York City's counter-part to Philly's American Bandstand.

Mom used to watch Clay Cole every day during her later high school years. She once told me of how she and her best girl friend played hooky one day from school to go on the dance show (unbeknownst to my Nana) . They cut class and took the train in to New York City to appear on the show. 

The girls got on the show, but then realized that my Nana watched it every day as well! So every time the camera panned the dancers, Mom and her friend would hide behind people, hoping that Nana wouldn't spot them dancing. Well, my Mom had luck on her side once again, and Nana never spotted them cutting class. 
Clay Cole with Annette Funicello circa 1960

I have to say, I love these stories about my Mom. I always knew she was a fiesty fun gal but knowing she was like that in high school too is just great. You need to ask your parents about their experiences growing up my friends. My sister, brother and I are lucky enough we have some of these stories. 

You can read more about The Clay Cole Show at these links:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pulsing My Way to Pesto!

Last Year's basil crop!
Blogger's Note: I began writing this last Fall (2015) and for some reason put it aside and didn't come back to it until now. I wanted to complete it and share the recipes with my readers since I'm growing basil again on my deck. Both recipes below came out great and I highly recommend them. One change though for this year, I am going to freeze the remaining basil at the end of the growing season instead of dry it. In addition, this blog post is dedicated to my fraternity brother Alex Spiezio, who has encouraged me to continue writing about food and recipes. Thanks Alex!

Removing and cleaning the basil
I always seem to fail at my attempts at gardening. I have a great green indoor thumb but the outdoor garden seems to falter, probably due to my lack of patience or it becomes completely overgrown and unruly. What I am good at is growing herbs. Last year, my tomatoes faltered until the very end and my banana peppers only produced 4 peppers after something came by and ate every last damn pepper blossom off the plant. My herbs though did extremely well. I grew thyme, dill, catnip, chives, catnip and basil. I planted two Italian basil plants which did awesome! What to do with all that basil?

Over the past years, I have dried the basil out and used it over the winter for cooking.  I have also seen that you can freeze it in ice cube trays to use throughout the year. I decided to make pesto. I had never tried it but always have wanted to. I think it was my unnatural fear of food processors. LOL I've had a pesto recipe with tomatoes forever and have wanted to try it. I figured this was the year to make pesto! I reserved a third of it for use over the winter.

After about an hour of searching I finally found my food processor, a Black and Decker which was won at a bar raffle about two to three years ago, There it was, sitting in the basement in a dusty box never used, still wrapped in plastic, just waiting to take off a finger or two. Well I figured nothing like the present ... and I sure as heck wasn't gonna chop up and mix all that basil by hand. I'm a hands-on kinda cook but anyone who knows me knows that if I can use a machine to do the work, I will.

The food processor had so many parts, I felt like I was putting together R2-D2 from Star Wars; not to mention the possibility of slicing yourself just trying to figure out how the blades went in! But I have to say Thank G-d that the contraption has so many safety features because if it didn't, I'm sure my finger would be part of the 2015 pesto season. Once finally put together, the Black and Decker beamed back at me as if it were saying, "Well it's about friggin' time!"

Using the processor was actually a joy. It made things so much easier. Clean up ... again watching those sharp blades ... was pretty easy too. I don't' know how often I'll use it, but at least I can say I have! One observation when it comes to using it for the recipes: when you run the processor, keep an eye on the pesto. You don't want pesto soup.

One of my besties, Jen, gave me this great cook book, Giada's Family Dinners for one of my birthdays many moons ago. It is one of my favorites and Giada's recipes are so easy to follow and make. The one pesto recipe below comes out of it. Thanks again Jen!

Basil Pesto by Giada De Laurentiis  

2 cups fresh packed basil leaves
Giada's Pesto over rotini pasta
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
About 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until finely chopped. With the blender/processor still running, gradually add enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper to taste. (The pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Makes 1 cup.

Saved some to dry and use over the winter
Toasted Pine Nuts by Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup of pine nuts

Preheat a small, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Place the pine nuts in the hot skillet and stir them until they become fragrant and golden brown on the outside, and pale golden throughout the inside, about 5 minutes.


I found this next recipe in a newspaper years ago and have always wanted to make it. Well I finally got the chance! I had enough picked basil to make both.

Pesto Al Pomodoro (Tomato Pesto)

Tomato Pesto and Giada's Pesto
3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup packed fresh parley leaves
4 cloves, garlic, peeled
Kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup peeled, seeded, finely diced ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium sized)
freshly ground black pepper

Place basil, parsley, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender. Roughly chop. With machine running, add olive oil. Shut off machine and scrap sides. Run machine again and slowly add tomatoes. Process until blended.Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.