Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallows after a Thanksgiving hike!

John hikin' on the trail.
Growing up, Thanksgiving in my home as in many, has always been a family affair. I have years of memories of my Mom and Dad working together to make a large Thanksgiving feast for my brother, sister, and I. Each of us would vie for the sacred wishbone. Most years, Dad would dry it out and then pick which two would break it over a wish. Of course we took turns with him carefully remembering who did it the year before! One year, ever the artist, he spray painted it gold, and still another he soaked it in vinegar which made it rubbery!  Dad was constantly keeping us kids enthralled with amusement!  Good memories!

As we got older, some of us kids did not make it to Thanksgiving for one reason or another. Adam was in the Marines, Sheryl had moved into Philly, and I was away at school at Rutgers. Mom and Dad also divorced with Mom moving south to Florida. What can ya do but go with the flow as they say? She met my stepdad Barry and they built a wonderful vacation home back up here in Lake Wynonah, PA. Traditional Thanksgiving dinners resumed at Mom's in Lake Wynonah.  Mom would bring out Nanny's China, sterling silver service, and Waterford crystal just for the special occasion.  In fact, I don't think she brought it out any other time!

Me and John hikin' the trail by the Sand Spring Stream.
As many of you know, Mom unfortunately passed away in 2009 for reasons left for another essay, another time. Thanksgiving though was Mom's favorite holiday in mine and my sibling's eyes. I have had difficulty getting over this and moving on. My sister now goes out to my brother's for Thanksgiving in San Diego with the West Coast Haynes'. I am just not ready yet to move on. The holiday became painful for me after Mom passed on. I eventually will be able to deal better with it but for now have created a new tradition with John.

John's parents are out at his brother's in Arizona, so John and I have had Thanksgiving together each year after a long hike in the morning. This year, we hiked up the Sand Springs Trail by Shartlesville, PA, to the Appalachian trail on the top of Blue Mountain. Once at the top, we went down the Tom Lowe Memorial Trail to finish a full several mile loop.

Possum? My friend Kyle thinks so and I agree.
At the top of the mountain, we found the spring source for the stream that followed the Sand Springs Trail.  We also spied the tracks of a couple animals on the way up and around the springs.  We identified bobcat, possum, chipmunk, and squirrel tracks. I love that stuff!

The weather was brisk, at times sunny and at other times a little dangerous when we encountered snow squalls at the top of the mountain. At least an inch or two had already fallen up top so hiking was a bit treacherous and cold. Luckily, my good man brought his flask filled with one of our favorite libations, Bulleit Bourbon. Maybe not the best idea while hiking down over snow covered rocks! :) 

Enjoy our (belated) Thanksgiving message made on the top of Blue Mountain:

After the long hike, we enjoyed a couple of well earned drinks at the Haags Hotel and then ventured home. The turkey eventually went into the oven at 2:30 PM and John and I finally sat down to eat at 8:30 PM. But it was well worth it. He made his Mom's potato puff and I made my Nana's recipe for Sweet Potato Pie with Marshallows. I actually used to dislike it as a kid. The only thing I liked was the toasted marshmallows!

John crossing a treacherous snow covered log bridge.
Year after year, Adam, Sheryl, and I would just hit the marshmallows first. Mom and Dad knew but still put up with our grumblings about having to finish the sweet potatoes. It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I actually began to like them! 

Here is my Nanny's recipe for Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallows.  I substituted mandarin oranges for a little bit sweeter orange flavor.  Check the oven towards the end of cooking time. If you want your marshmallows toastier, keep in a couple minutes longer but make sure you watch them so they don't over cook!

Nana's Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallows

1. Scrub - peel - boil sweet potatoes
2. Mash well
3. Add 1/2 to 1 stick of margarine
4. Salt to taste
5. Add sliced orange - cut into pieces
6. Combine all ingredients, blend well
7. Put in casserole dish
8. Dot with butter and marshmallows
9. Bake in low oven (325'F) until marshmallows are brown for 30-35 minutes.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Funeral Condolences

Last night, John and I attended the viewing of our good friend Ed's father in Minersville, PA.  Ed has a large family and it was comforting to see all of his 6 brothers and sisters in attendance.  Ed's father, Butch, passed away the weekend prior surrounded by his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It was just how my Mom passed away back in 2009, surrounded by our family and it really brought back memories.

Ed and I hugged, got choked up, and I offered my condolences. I met Ed's mom, offered my condolences and said, "I'm Marc, I'm friends with Ed and Kim in the Lake I am so sorry for your family's loss." I said the same with his sisters. As I moved down the line, I met one of his brothers and we talked about him being back in the "old neighborhood."  He said it was bittersweet having everyone back at the family home a couple blocks away. I completely understood.

When my Mom passed and we had the memorial service in Lake Wynonah, Adam, Sheryl, and I saw family and friends which we hadn't seen in years.  These days, it is a shame that only weddings and funerals seem to reunite families. I know my siblings and I have made a concerted effort with success to see extended family in North Jersey and California. For it to be truly successful both sides have to make the effort. Our family now sees each other on a regular basis, not just at weddings and funerals.

I did not know Ed's father, but was touched after seeing all of the people who came out to pay their respects.  I came to the last family member in the receiving line, shook his hand firmly and as I had done with each one prior, stated, "I'm Marc, I'm friends with Ed and Kim in the Lake. I am so sorry for your family's loss."

The man in the black suit slightly smiled and said, "I'm the funeral director."
I began stuttering and blurted out, "Oh! Well you have a lovely funeral home!"

John pushed me from behind, shaking his head muttering, "You are SO embarrassing."
All I could do was say, "I'm sorry! Ed has a large family and I lost track of how many brothers I said hi to!"

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Shrimp Creole

Mom's Shrimp Creole
Earlier in November, my sister Sheryl came out for the weekend and I decided to make one of my Mom's special dishes, Shrimp Creole, for her and John. This is a very basic recipe, like many of Mom's, which can be spiced up or added to. This was one of her fancy dishes that she made for guests when she entertained back in the 80's. She didn't make it that often for shrimp were considered pricey depending on how big they were. Hence, it was only a recipe for special occasions.

I like this recipe as it needs only a handful of ingredients: shrimp, tomato sauce or marinara, onions, peppers, celery, and whatever spices you would like to add. John and I went shopping that weekend for the ingredients at our local supermarket. I had a stalk of celery at home, but it had wilted and become as limp as a bad pickle so celery was the first item I was looking for. I came across stalks of celery and just didn't want to buy an entire stalk for the one recipe. I don't use it that often, don't snack on it, and have stopped drinking daily bloody marys. For awhile I convinced myself that potato vodka counted as a full day's veggie serving along with the tomato juice and celery. 

Anyway, I came across pre-chopped celery at a pretty reasonable price, $2.50, in a deli container, and figured it would save me a bit of time chopping it up. I searched for the smallest amount of celery and came across a packed container which was mispriced for 2 CENTS!!!  I showed it to John and asked, "Does this say what I think it says?"  He got real close and squinted at it as I had done for we both can't see writing unless it's up close. He said, "Do you think it will scan at 2 cents?" I replied, "Well if it doesn't, I am demanding it for 2 cents!"  Fast forward to self-checkout and we got the celery for 2 cents!

Two cents of celery (The entire container was jam packed!)

I spiced up Mom's recipe with red pepper flakes, added sliced mushrooms, and served it over red beans and brown rice.  It came out really well.  You can always add your own Creole or Cajun seasoning for that extra zing!

Shrimp Creole    Serves 4

1-2 lbs shrimp, fresh or frozen – cleaned
Green pepper – diced
Onion – chopped
Celery – diced
Tomato sauce
Salt – ¼ teaspoon
Garlic powder – ¼ teaspoon
White rice

1. Sauté vegetables until tender.
2. Add tomato sauce and salt.
3. Add pepper and garlic powder.
4. Simmer 15 minutes.
5. Add uncooked or cooked shrimp.
6. Simmer 15 minutes (or less if shrimp is cooked).

Serve over rice. Nice with tossed salad and hot bread or rolls. -Mom-

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rice Krispies Treats and other Sweets!

It was John's birthday the beginning of November and I presented him with a cake at the Lake Wynonah Lodge while he was bartending. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" for the self-proclaimed angry bartender – at least he is when the Philadelphia Eagles are losing. I put on these garish candles which were supposed to be sparklers but they just sputtered out. I think they were from 1970 or something. Before you say how wonderful it was that I baked a cake, I will retort, "Are you crazy?" I got the next best thing, a Pepperidge Farms 3-Layer Cake!
The funny thing was that John was with me when I picked up the cake. I couldn't get away from him in the supermarket so I faked a received text from my friend Sue. I told John it stated that she needed a cake for her grandchild's birthday. I couldn't even get out a real name for the kid, just instead referring to it as "one of her grandkids, I dunno which one."  Unknowingly, Sue became my cake patsy.

You could say Sue was my Pepperidge patsy as I picked up a the Pepperidge Farms 3-Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake. I am just drawn to these cakes. I LOVE THEM. They are always so moist and just sweet enough! They are the perfect size for a small birthday gathering. Growing up (everything goes back to this of course), Mom and Dad would purchase them for birthdays and special occasions. It was either that or our other favorite, a Carvel Ice Cream cake. And no, I never got the Carvel "Cookie Puss" cake. I was horribly disappointed as you can imagine. If you don't know what the Cookie Puss cake was, I guess I am dating myself. Instead, we got a chocolate ice cream cake with chocolate crumbles on the sides. You never heard me complaining.

Mom did bake, just not often. She baked Jewish apple cake, brownies, banana bread, cookies, and either Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines cakes. I never turned down any of these either. But sometimes Mom's box mix cakes could come out pretty dry. Luckily, mounds of chocolate icing could fix anything.  And who could forget when she let you lick the icing spatula! Eventually Mom turned to the Pepperidge Farms cakes for good and that became our traditional birthday dessert. 

Another dessert that Mom made for my sister, brother, and I were Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats.  According to the Wikipedia online article, Rice Krispies cereal dates back to 1927 and Rice Krispies Treats, to 1939. It is amazing that these treats have become an iconic American dessert on the same level with Oreo cookies and apple pie!  Each mother seemed to have her own recipe, and Mom was no exception. Whether they were hastily made for a school birthday party after telling Mom at 9 at night that I needed it for the next day or for a camping trip, Rice Krispies treats are still to this day, a cheap, reliable, and easy to make dessert. Below is my Mom's recipe and other similar variations can be found online. Who can resist their chewy sweetness? Looking for an something different? Check out the  great website: for variations!

I found out a couple things when making them. For such an easy recipe, it can be sooo messy. When you are stirring in the Rice Krispies, they stick to everything and get everywhere. Make sure you spray the utensil you are using with spray butter or a Pam type spray to prevent sticking. Once the mixture was completely mixed and ready to spread out into the pan, I used a wooden spoon to pat it down evenly. My Mom also suggested wax paper. Another time-saving hint is that instead of melting the butter and marshmallows over the stove, you can microwave the mixture. In a microwave safe bowl, heat the butter and marshmallows on high for 2 minutes, stir evenly, then heat for an additional minute. Stir until smooth and then transfer into a large mixing bowl and add the cereal. The microwaving won't affect flavor and obviously saves a lot of time.
Rice Krispies Treats!
Although very simple, I really enjoyed making this recipe. It relaxed me after a very long day at work.  Memories of Mom surprising us with them also came rushing back. Why not make it this weekend for your kids? Nothing makes you love Mom more than getting a plate full of Rice Krispies Treats from her!

Rice Krispies Treats
From Mom (Abby Deeds)

1/4 cup regular margarine or butter
1 package (10 oz) of regular marshmallows or 4 cups of miniature marshmallows
5-6 cups of Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal

1. Melt margarine or butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
2. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.
3. Cook 3-4 minutes longer, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat.
4. Add Rice Krispies and stir until they are completely coated.
5. Using a buttered spatula or waxed paper, press the mixture evenly into a buttered 13x9x2 inch pan.
6. Cut into 2 inch squares when cool.




Monday, November 18, 2013

My Quiet Month Off

After a month off, I am finally getting back to this blog, my labor of love. At the end of September, John and I went off on vacation for a week staying in cabins at various states parks of Northwestern PA. We encountered bugling elk, mischievous young deer following us, and an angry beaver which chased us out of his swamp. Luckily, we survived and had a wonderful week getting back to nature.

I was back to work for 4 crazy days and then went out on surgery leave for a hernia operation on October 11th. It was successful. As you can guess I milked my pain for everything it was worth. J  John, my sister Sheryl, and good friend Sue took good care of me. The first week was a struggle as I found every movement involves your abdominal muscles which were now sporting three small incisions. Well I recovered and am now back on track with normal life.

I did write a lot during the 3 weeks off, just not material that I am ready to put out yet. I will begin though, with the continuation of my year-long project with my family's recipes. This next one will be an easy one with everyone's favorite treat from growing up, Rice Krispies Treats!  If you haven't made it in awhile, maybe it's time to make it for your kids or just for the fun of it!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cabbage and Sausage Stew

This is a easy recipe that my Mom gave to me in October of 2008, exactly 5 years ago. What makes it so poignant is that Mom was diagnosed with cancer just two months later and then suffered her car accident in January of 2009, eventually succumbing to her injuries that following April. Pretty sad huh? In addition, Mom's writing on the recipe card is rather shaky. Her writing used to be so flowing, with loops and scrolls. Her writing shows the effects of fibromyalgia which she was suffering from at that point. With this being officially the "last" recipe she had given me as simple as it is, it now has special meaning.

I had never made this recipe but with the advent of the chillier Fall weather, I thought it would be a perfect time to try it.  I did make some minor changes to suit my own needs but her original recipe appears below.

Cabbage and Sausage Stew


1 head of cabbage
1 can "RO*TEL" brand tomatoes and green chilies
1 16 oz. package of your favorite link sausage
salt and pepper, season how you wish

Sauté or grill sausage links until they are fully cooked. Put aside. Cook cabbage in large pot with canned tomatoes until cabbage is done. Add sausage links and simmer for 15 minutes on low.  As Mom wrote on the recipe card, it is an "excellent cold weather meal with salad and hot bread. Easy to make also!"

Some choices and changes I made included using sweet Italian pork sausage. I would also use turkey sausage. Once the sausage was done, I sliced it up into 1/2 inch slices and then added it to the cabbage.  Instead of having to shred cabbage myself, I bought a bagged of shredded cabbage with carrots that one would use for coleslaw. It cut down on the cooking time and just made it easier for me. Instead of the RO*TEL brand tomatoes and green chilies, you can use your own favorite chunky spaghetti sauce, or another brand of canned tomatoes and green chilies. Alternately, you can chop up your own tomatoes, onions, and peppers and use them too. Spice it up however you want to! The nice thing about this recipe is that you can be as creative as you want to be, or make the recipe as my Mom did for an easy excellent cold weather meal.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Camp Fire Cooking

Campin' with John.

When I was a kid, the only food that mattered while camping was toasted marshmallows over a campfire. We weren’t a ‘smores family. Marshmallows suited us just fine. My family “camped” at Parvin State Park in southern New Jersey for years over long weekends in the Fall. We stayed at one of the CCC -built rustic wooden cabins. Cabin #13 was our favorite for whatever reason. The cabins surrounded a small lake named Thundergust Lake. We would spend the weekend going on family hikes or trying our hand at fishing in the lake. Year after year the fish at Parvin evaded my brother and me but we were persistent, always trying the next year.

Anyway, these days John and I spend a week every Fall camping either in a tent or cabin in some State Park or wilderness area we haven’t been before. Our trip this year was to three Pennsylvania State Parks: Parker Dam, Clear Creek, and Cook Forest. It was an incredible trip with some great hikes accomplished  We spied a wonderful array of wildlife including dozens of elk, deer, wild turkeys, bear, a porcupine, a weasel, a group of over 30 turkey vultures, an owl, and one very aggressive beaver.

Preparing for this trip brought me back to thinking about the camping trips with my family when I was around 8 or 10 and what we ate back then. I had a brownie mix I made as I figured we’d want dessert at the end of our hikes. The good thing about brownies is that they last a long time after baking them. Brownies were one of Mom’s staple desserts for us kids. Although they never lasted as long as they do with John and I. One brownie and a shot of my favorite scotch or port is enough dessert for me!

John cooking baked beans over the campfire.
Camp food back at Cabin #13 was your run of the mill hot dogs and hamburgers, sloppy joe's and maybe BBQ chicken one night or two. Breakfast included eggs and bacon, or Dad’s famous pancakes. John and I made grilled authentic German style wieners from Dietrich’s Meats in Krumsville, PA with baked beans and … chopped up Spam! (Sidebar: For camping, I love Spam and have nothing against low sodium turkey Spam over the fire!) Our attempt was to grill the wieners and a pot of beans over the fire in true camp fire tradition. We covered the grill with aluminum foil to be a little bit more sanitary. The wieners were fine on the fire but with the pot of beans on the grill at the same time, everything kept sliding off into the fire. As it turned out, spraying the aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray was not the best idea. I admit it, my idea. We laid down another layer of aluminum foil and eventually finished cooking our camp fire dinner.

The campfire dinner that almost slid into the fire.
Evenings at Cabin #13 were a fun time. As a family, we played backgammon, board games, and card games such as Crazy 8's, Go Fish, and War. Remember them? It was a time before MP3 players, WiFi internet on tablets, and portable play stations. We actually just enjoyed each other’s company. The best part of the evening for us was roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate. Adam, Sheryl, and I would compete with each other for the most perfectly roasted marshmallow. I think Sheryl won most of the time. She had the patience for it. Adam’s and mine usually caught on fire and burnt to a crisp before we could blow out the fire. We still ate them though, usually to the point of upset stomachs!

Being the little fire starters that we were, we would throw things into the fire just to see what would happen, much to my parent’s chagrin. We loved torching Styrofoam cups which would sizzle and burn and then float up into the sky before extinguishing in the night air.  I still remember Mom screaming at us, “Oh My GOD! Bob, they are gonna burn the cabin down! DO something!!!” My pacifist father would gently reprimand us, "Now boys..."  Haha, the big ole’ softy! 

My marshmallows came out pretty good this time around. John and I each have these marshmallow sticks we take every camping trip. They are whittled down perfectly. I know I meant to eat only 4 each night at the camp fire but ended up eating like 8 or 9. Marshmallows, after all, are a fat free food!

Rained the last night, so roasted marshmallows in the wood stove!

This past week brought out some great memories of camping with my family. Adam and I made forts with the fire wood, hiked, harassed our sister (as usual), and fished that lake for over half a decade. When I returned as an adult and lamented to a park ranger that we never caught any fish, he laughed and said, "Well of course you didn't. Thundergust Lake was dead back in the 70's and 80's. There wasn't a fish in it!"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Low-Fat Salsa Chicken

Very exciting stuff, chopping green onions!
After I received a comment from someone on the 'basic nature' of the recipes I was posting, I felt I needed to reiterate the purpose of my project. I will have recipes for meatloaf, baked chicken, zucchini bread, cookies, and veggie dip among others. These are home-style family recipes which many of you already have. I just have never made them and want to be able to say in a years' time that I have accomplished that. You can doctor them up as you wish and some of them I have and will note it when I do.

This blog project is not about making gourmet foods (although I reserve the right to venture down that path in the future.) These are not cooking channel glossy magazine recipes. It is not about me cooking or rather stumbling through some famous chef's cookbook. This project is about cooking through my own families' recipes. Most are my Mom's, but some are my Nana's, sister's, cousin's, and John's family recipes too. I am learning about my extended family by cooking the recipes which were favorites of their families.
Chicken was a staple in my household.  Steak and London broil were for special occasions. Ham didn't happen except for maybe my Dad on Easter. We were as I see it, a culturally Jewish family who remained Kosher as best we could in a household where our father was Christian. So remaining Kosher came down to sometimes, ham on Easter and bacon on weekends.  Sheryl and my Mom shied away from the ham but I think they secretly snuck some bacon. I remember my Mom saying, "I can try a little bacon, it doesn't look like a pig." My Mom praised G-d when turkey bacon was invented.  
Anyway, back to chicken. Mom, as you will see, had recipes for baked chicken, chicken parmigiana, BBQ chicken (actually Dad's domain), and my Nana's potted chicken. We also had a liking for Kentucky Fried Chicken during the 70's. That mysteriously stopped. Me thinks that Mom was trying to direct us down a healthier path.  Thankfully we still had pizza once a week from Oak Valley Pizza but that become the extent of our fast food.
The only misstep that I can think that Mom made while cooking was her attempt at using left over chicken in scrambled eggs. Anyone else think that was ... um ... just an odd and weirdly unethical combination? Eggs and chicken, in one meal?  As it turned out, well let's just say it turned out bad.  Just didn't taste right even with lots of ketchup. Mom was mortified and we razzed her to no end. Even many years later, my brother Adam would bring up the chicken and scrambled eggs story and send the entire family into laughter.  Mom would just turn beat red and laugh with the rest of us.
Chicken ready to go into the oven.
For this week's family recipe, I made my mom's low-fat salsa chicken. It's not the most complex of recipes but it is a good tasty recipe that my Mom loved.  I used a mild salsa but if you want a kick, use a medium salsa or add some hot sauce. Mom made this recipe originally with grated Parmigiano cheese. I substituted a shredded low-fat Mexican blend of cheese and liked it more. I feel it gave it a more of a Southwest flavor.  Feel free to use whatever other seasonings you like. I just used some basic salt and pepper.
Low-Fat Salsa Chicken, lookin' good!
Low-Fat Salsa Chicken
From Mom (Abby Deeds)
¼ cup of sliced green onions (white part and a little of the green)
¾ cup of your favorite salsa (but you can be as generous as you want)
¼ cup of grated Parm cheese or shredded low-fat Mexican blend cheese (same thing here, use liberally if you like cheese!)
4 – 4 oz chicken breast halves
Preheat oven to 350'F
Place chicken in an 11 x 7 in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Spoon salsa evenly over chicken; top with green onions.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Cover and bake at 350'F for 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is done.
Serve over hot cooked rice or with baked potatoes.
Serves 4.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Seeing My Cousins and Sharing Recipes

My sis Sheryl and I ventured out to North Jersey (as we call it out here) over the weekend to spend time with our dear cousins, sisters Anne and Jennifer. We reconnected a couple years ago after a long absence. It is a funny thing when you get older, you realize that those cousins you hung with in your childhood years are almost the only family left and hopefully ... and if you are lucky, you reconnect with them or stay connected with them.

If getting older has taught me anything, this is not always the case with friends and families. I live in a very special world where I am very lucky that my family loves each other and loves getting together. I know of plenty of dear friends which this does not happen. It is sad but something that I have come to accept. I cannot impress the close relationships of my family on others. Some families, unfortunately, will just not be that close. As an adult, I have come to accept that I cannot influence my friends in that regard. I look on it with sadness, but I accept it and don't judge.

So this past Sunday that we spent together was certainly a trip down memory lane. Anne, Jennifer, Sheryl, and I spent a wonderful afternoon laughing as well as bickering over details of memories as close siblings do. Our cousins understand the dynamics between Marc, Adam, and Sheryl and we understand the dynamics between Anne and Jennifer. Whether they are observing us or we are observing them, it is always an interesting show. I believe the best seats in the house are Anne's hubby Jeff and Jen's hubby Joe!  Unfortunately my brother Adam was not able to make it but Adam, if your ears were burning ... let's just say you deserved it! :)

One of the shining moments of the visit was seeing how much my adorable little cousin Jessica, who is eight, enjoyed the gifts I brought her.  I gave her two large sticker books. One was decorating cupcakes and the other was decorating headshots with different jewelry and nails. SO HAPPY I got a cool gift for once for one of the youngest members of my family! 

I used this time for swapping family recipes with Anne and Jennifer. I was hoping for their grandmother's recipe for angel food cake (my Aunt Emmy). I just loved that cake and Aunt Emmy made it each time we came to visit back in the 70's. Anne and Jennifer confirmed that unfortunately, the recipe was never handed down. I was sad over it. A recipe lost. It has happened to my side of the family as well. We don't have official family recipes for potato pancakes or gefilte fish but we know our Nana made them. It is sad. A part of our family history is lost.

My readers, use this as a lesson to pass down recipes to your other family members. We lost the angel food cake recipe but I gained others from Anne and Jennifer. Their mother was our dear cousin Jean. As I sit here writing, I remember her great hugs and kisses and it brings a smile to my face. Her sister was Aunt Harriet. I remember enjoying cousin Jean's brisket recipe, but her daughters Anne and Jennifer said that Aunt Harriet's was better! So I have that which I will eventually share with you, along with my mother's.

I also was able to get Anne's family potato pancake (latke) recipe, cousin Jean's noodle kugel recipe (different from Nana's!), cousin Jean's chocolate cake recipe, a family Challah bread recipe, and Anne's recipe for Hamantachen (a triangle shaped cookie served traditionally at the Jewish holiday of Purim). I have my work cut out for me with this cooking project!

I consider myself lucky for several reasons. I was able to get some great family recipes as well as the history behind them from my dear cousins. Love them those gals. Also, family time is just so precious. There are only a few older family members left in my mother's families:  the Linns and the Newmans. It makes it all the more important that we children (now in our 40's) carry on the traditions and history of our families.

Don't forget this my friends! I know it doesn't happen with every family but if possible, renew and strengthen those family bonds. Those traditions need to be passed on to your children and your younger cousins, maybe in the form of family recipes. Kids like my cousin Jessica, and my niece and nephew Johnny and Angelica will wonder one day where they came from and we need to be able to pass on the family history and traditions to them.

My only regret was that I didn't get cousin Jean's macaroni and cheese recipe before I left. Hello Anne and Jennifer, help a cousin out here!?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sweet Noodle Kugel

This is my Nana's recipe for sweet noodle kugel. I posted about this once before but never posted the recipe. Kugel is a holiday mainstay in Jewish culture and cooking. I remember having this on Rosh Hoshana, Hannukah, and Passover. It is fitting that I am putting this recipe up during the holiest of holidays periods, the 10 High Holy days between Passover and Yom Kippur.

Kugel can be made in variety of ways:  apple sauce kugel, potato kugel, noodle kugel, matzoh kugel, savory spinach kugel, carrot kugel, and of course, my Nana's recipe below for the sweet noodle kugel with raisins. I love this recipe as I have eaten it as a side dish, dessert, or even a quick breakfast on the run.  My sister Sheryl makes a great spinach kug. I remember my brother Adam and I loving this recipe below when Nana and Mom made it in the 70's. We would fight for the pieces which had the most crunchy noodles on top.

I made the recipe this evening. You could smell the apples, nutmeg, and cinnamon while it was cooking! It came out great but I would recommend reducing the cooking time by 5 to 10 minutes if you have a newer oven so it doesn't dry out. You can always continue baking if need be. 

Sweet Noodle Kugel

Nana's Sweet Noodle Kugel

Set oven on bake to 350'F.

8 oz broad noodles (I used David's Wide Enriched Kosher Egg Noodles)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil.
3 eggs separated
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup seedless raisins
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced apples

1. Boil noodles according to package instructions, drain well.
2. Beat egg yolks, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and salt.
3. Add apples, raisins, and noodles.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff - fold into noodle mixture.
5. Pour into greased baking dish - 9 x 9 x 1 1/2 inches.
6. Bake at 350'F for 45 minutes until brown.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Baked Fish with Vegetables

Nana, Mom, and Sheryl
As a child, I hated all types of fish except those that were battered, breaded, deep fried and covered in ketchup. Give me fish sticks till the end of the earth! I also loved those Gorton's beer battered cod fillets. They were so good with ketchup, LOTS of ketchup. As far as I was concerned, that is how they came out of the ocean, already slathered in ketchup.
We used to go to a restaurant in Mullica Hill, NJ, by the name of the Hilltop Restaurant. It was a small diner/café type place. Mom would drag us around town antiquing till she was ready to drop. We hated it but were rewarded with lunch and I had my FAVORITE meal, fried clam strips with lots of ketchup.
Growing up, I was never a fan of just baked or broiled fish. That is until my Mom made this recipe. I ate it cautiously at first. The 2nd mouthful was even better. It wasn't until years later that I found that this was actually one of my Nana's recipes and the family history-buff in me loved it even more. Or maybe it was the tomato sauce, the high end cousin of ketchup!

It is a fairly easy recipe and I have made it with cod, haddock, and tilapia but I am sure almost any mild fish would do.  I would try it with flounder, red snapper, or trout. I think salmon or tuna would be too strong for this. We always made it with a side of white or brown rice. This time I made it with tilapia, portabella mushrooms, and brown rice. You can vary the recipe with what ever seasonings you wish. I hope you enjoy.
Baked Fish with Vegetables
From the kitchen of Sarah 'Nana' Newman

Baked Fish (tilapia) with Vegetables
Heat oven to 400'F
Serves 6
6 slices frozen or fresh mild flavored fish
1 large cooking onion, diced
1/4 lbs mushrooms, fresh sliced or canned
1 green pepper, diced
 5 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 1/2 cans/jars tomato sauce (16 oz cans/jars)
salt and pepper to taste, or additional seasonings
vegetable oil (optional)
1. Brown vegetables in 2 tablespoons margarine, butter, or vegetable oil
2. Arrange vegetables on bottom of large glass or metal baking pan
3. Place fish over vegetables
4. Dot fish with butter
5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
6. Pour tomato sauce over fish
7. Bake at 400'F uncovered for 35 minutes at the most, or until the fish are thoroughly done
8. Baste occasionally
9. Serve with white or brown rice.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cooking Through My Family

Cooking and family. Anyone who knows me knows that I put family up as one of my greatest priorities. My brother Adam and sister Sheryl feel the same way. So it is of no wonder that some of our best family memories revolve around the dinner table. Mom and Dad insisted on nightly meals. Mom did most of the cooking as Dad was off teaching art at (then) Glassboro State College until dinnertime. (Dad, on the other hand, mastered the BBQ grill and brunch!) Our dinners were "all hands on deck." Everyone would help out setting the table, getting drinks, putting out the condiments, and generally participate in the making of the meals.

One of many holiday dinners at Wenonah (Brother Adam was taking the pic)

During dinner, the conversation was loud and lively, with each of us recounting what happened that day.  We were not a big "grace" family. I only remember saying "grace" a handfull of times, usually when the grandparents were visiting. Mom and Dad were big on the communication. They would ask , "What did you do today? What did you learn?"  in between telling us to eat our peas, get our elbows off the table, or to stop kicking each other.

Mom's Birthday Dinner at Lake Wynonah

The breakfast room, where we ate most meals, served as a gathering spot for the day's activities.  Mom and Dad had their first cup of coffee there. Mom, her first smoke of the morning. It was a perfect place to talk on the phone as the phone cord stretched right around from the kitchen to Mom's seat. We worked on homework there, art projects, watched TV on the small black and white, or Dad read  The Gloucester County Times. On different occasions our parents sat in the breakfast room waiting for us to get home late after our 1 AM curfew. You know if you only saw Mom's cigarette burning in the pitch black darkness, she was there waiting and boy, were you in trouble!

Mom and her beloved grandchildren, Angelica and Johnny

The formal dining room was left for special occasions: holidays, birthdays, visiting guests and of course, whenever the grandparents stayed over.  The dining room was off limits for our art projects. In fact, not much occurred there besides the formal meals! It was sacred to Mom and we were fine with that. That's just what we grew up with: a breakfast room and a formal dining room. When I started renting houses instead of apartments, I always picked one with a formal dining room I think as homage to my mother.
Celebrating John's Dad's 90th birthday, another great meal and memory with family around the dining room table

Dinner in 2011 with Dad, myself, and my other mom, Martha, who is an incredible cook and inspiration as well
Over these next several months, I will be stepping back from my usual blog topics and instead begin exploring the recipes of my family. Follow me as I cook the recipes which brought us together for each meal including how they were an integral part of my family at large:  grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins included!

Lunch with Dad and Sheryl in 2011. We were having lunch with our friends, the Roosevelt Elk of Northern California!
With each blog I will cook a recipe of my mother's, sister's, or other family members', include an anecdote about it, as well as the actual recipe. These recipes helped bring together my family for birthdays, holidays, and other events . You may be surprised at how many of us have the same experiences. I may add a short video talking about it or a favorite kitchen gadget which I cannot live without.
I want to begin this series with a video that my sister and I created for the National Museum of American Jewish History which my sister and I visited in 2012. I posted it once before but I am posting it again as it seems very apropos for this new project. We had to pick a topic related to our family and discuss it. Our topic we chose about food in our family. Hope you enjoy.

The National Museum of American Jewish History video that my sister and I filmed in 2012:


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's In A Name?

The other day I was cruising home on the highway in my hot rod aka the Camry, when I came up against another 2006 pearl grey Toyota Camry, JUST LIKE MINE!  I was eager to see who was driving MY car down the highway so I sped up to get a look. Driving the exact same car was a man who looked like Jed Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies. I was immediately annoyed. He shouldn't be driving my car. Someone who looks like ME should be driving my car. I had an urge to run him off the road or have his car repossessed. But I didn't. I hit the gas and he ate my dust.
I began thinking about why I got so annoyed with him driving the same car. Is it because we associate the type of car we drive with our identity? It must be. I certainly didn't want to be identified or have my car identified with him. Moreover, I also get annoyed when I find that others share my name.
If you do a Google search on your name, (I know many of you have but won't admit it), you will find that there are others that share your name. It is a bit disconcerting when you see photos of them. All sorts of people share the name Marc Haynes of every type ethnicity imaginable.  There are African Americans named Marc Haynes, three British guys named Marc Haynes, and some business man in Arkansas named Marc Haynes. Under Google images, there I am the third row down. Wah wah wah. :(
Names are the ultimate identifying feature, so when you meet or see someone with your name, it is jarring.  I also never understood why certain people on Facebook have to be friends with others of the same name. OK one or two ain't bad, but several? More than ten? That's down right creepy.
I joke around that if I were a serial killer, I would only go after those with my name. That way, my ranking on Google would dramatically improve. (Relax, it's just a joke people!)  I get this feeling that if someone has my name and it's spelled the same way, it's trespassing!  And it's not like I have the most common spelling of my name. After all, it could be Mark Haines or Mark Hanes. In fact, I probably have the rarest spelling of my name.
According to the website , there are 42 people in the US with my name but I don't know how accurate there website is.  Hmmm ... so that's 41 people that I will have to "visit" at some point in the near future ...
At the website,  Marc is the 201st most common first name. OK, I feel a little better.
Sometimes first names go over the top. We have seen them in Hollywood. Certain celebrities have named their kids very different names:  Apple, Jermajesty, Rocket, Seven, and Ocean just to name a few.  I have read and understand some of the reasons behind why these parents named their kids these interesting names but I really feel that they are setting them up for some bullying down the road.
I have to say the most interesting named person I have been friends with is my friend from high school, Jinga. She was a breath of fresh air in high school, extremely unique, outgoing, and beautiful. She wore her name proudly. I am still friends with Jinga and I am happy to say she hasn't changed a bit. So maybe for those Apples, Oceans, and Rockets out there, there is certainly hope that they will live wonderfully fulfilling lives and rock their unique first names!
Now as for me, I will be content being the neurotic Marc Haynes. I will correct you every time if you misspell my name, too. I have issues, OK? I guess I should be happy though, that I am not named Mark Haines. There are 160 of them that I would then have to eventually "visit." 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Day at Penn State

Old Main, Penn State
This past Sunday I traveled up to the Penn State Main Campus in State College, PA.  John had some business up there and I tagged along to keep him company on the 3 hour drive up and back. While he was doing his stuff, I spent the morning and early afternoon wandering the campus reliving college memories from my own alma mater, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.
Old college campuses are very similar in that they all seem to have that large stately main building on campus where it all began. There is a cupola on top and two wings of classrooms. Old Main at Penn State brought back memories of the Old Queens building on the Rutgers College campus in New Brunswick.  Friends and I would hang out in front of or behind it on the Voorhees Mall studying for our classes or just relaxing in the sun. Today at Old Main, students were doing the very same thing. Some guys were playing Frisbee, a couple here and there being romantic, and several students studying.
Old Queens, Rutgers
One of my favorite memories at Rutgers was starting off each new semester seeing your classmates and fraternity brothers again for the first time after the break. We would all wander down to the Rutgers Bookstore to purchase our books for the semester. I think, back in ... ahem 1988, I would spend about $200 on books. I bought the used ones to save money. I was extremely fortunate to have my parents pay for college. Believe me I realize how lucky I am! Their requirement was for me to pay for my books and supplies each semester. Uh... did that include beer?

Books, books, and more books.
$147.00 for a new book
I wandered into the Penn State bookstore, it is a temporary one as they are redoing the one in the HUB building on campus. I was in basically several connected trailer type buildings looking at books left and right. I asked one of the women if I could buy a text book even though I wasn't a student and she said of course I could. I was in heaven in the Art History and Architecture aisle. I found several I wanted until I looked at the prices. Used books were still cheaper than the new ones but they also now have "rental books" and "e-books" which are cheaper still. Wow, a totally different generation of college students.  We were one of the first classes at Rutgers to be assigned "email accounts." I said to my friend Sharon, "What the heck am I gonna do with an email address?"  I don't think I ever opened it up once.

Anyway I found an incredible architecture book, Buildings Across Time, which I just had to have ... until I saw the price:  $147.00 new and $110.25 used. SO much more than when I went. I could buy all my books for just double that. The only books that expensive in 1988 were the nursing and pre-med books and those were friggin' bibles! Oh well, Amazon here I come!  There are currently 104 used ones online starting at the cheap asking price of $10.00!

After my time in the bookstore, I decided I needed to get some coffee and write for my blog. I ended up at the HUB which is the student union and activities building. There are tons of meeting spaces, game rooms, a gallery or two, and a large food court. Unfortunately there was no food or coffee on a Sunday but I still decided to hang out, write, and reminisce when I was back in school. Undergrad students were studying left and right and lemme me tell you, even with the obviously older grad students, I still felt out of place. I even had some kid hold open the door for me saying, "Here ya go, sir." UGH. Gee thanks kid.

Schreyer Park
I retreated to a solitary park just beyond the temporary bookstore named Schreyer Park. It was really peaceful and I enjoyed my time there tapping away on my laptop. Several squirrels, REALLY tame squirrels, jumped about sometimes a little bit too close! There were also tons of ducks wandering around the grounds of Old Main and some rabbits, too. I was amazed at how comfortable these animals were with people around.  

Ducks hanging out around Old Main
All in all it was a really fun day. I got a blog article written (not this one. LOL) and some other boring miscellaneous paperwork which was made palatable with my collegiate surroundings. I would write, take a break, people watch, and then get back to writing. Truly relaxing. I met up with John later and we headed down to College Avenue for a bite to eat after some shopping. We had a really good late lunch at a bar called Mr. Pickle's Tap Room. Good food, good selection of beers, and friendly people. Oh and this picture below, actually happened BEFORE the beers and lunch.

Showing my team spirit for Penn State!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Annoyances in the Life of Marc

These are mostly everyday occurrences which I come across and either roll my eyes at, sigh loudly, or exclaim “UGH!” in disgust. Now before, my friendly reader, you tell me to get over it, I do recognize that these are pretty minor. Just chalk it up that I’m on my way to becoming a crotchety old man. Some of these are car related as my commute really sucks.

I was commuting last week on busy Route 78  and next to me was an older man drinking coffee out of a white ceramic kitchen mug. Ugh! It’s 2013, drive immediately to Dunkin Donuts and buy yourself a metal or plastic travel mug.

I hate it when the first clam in a heaping steaming bowl is the filled with grit!

I get annoyed by having to line up with others at the Southwest airline gates in the A, B, and C lines like we are cattle. I am usually in line C so that means I am a member of the lower class cattle.

I had brunch with John this morning at a diner in downtown State College, PA. They put out glass ketchup bottles. It was the bottle part that annoyed me. I thought places got rid of the glass bottle and now only used plastic. It took me forever to get the ketchup out. I had to do the old “get the ketchup out with the knife trick.” Give me a plastic bottle I can squeeze G-d damnit!

I find those jarring lime green shirts that construction workers are now wearing very annoying. I prefer the Tang orange ones, thank you.

Windows 8: enough said.

I hate getting gas on me the first thing in the morning while pumping gas.  I have to work the entire day smelling like Texaco. There is nothing that gets out that smell.

The cats just have to desecrate the litter box immediately after I clean it. Can't you wait 5 minutes? No, I swear they hide right around the corner waiting for me to leave the bathroom. As soon as I walk out, I imagine them fighting over who gets to go in the clean box first.

Speaking of the cats, it really annoys me when they are scratching the couch and just staring at me as if they are saying, "Yeah I'm scratching. What are you gonna do about it? Even if you make me stop now, I'll wait till your gone!"

You are listening to satellite radio in the car singing at full volume and it cuts out. So even if you are alone, you stop singing immediately and look around embarrassed. It is then you realize how badly you actually sing.

Individual coffee creamers at restaurants that are curdled and then ruin that first cup of coffee.

You pop a bunch of fresh grapes into your mouth and bite down on that one small sour grape that escaped your sight.

I sometimes get sidetracked doing the wash and walk away - for hours. Before I know it, I have a smelly pile of laundry festering in the washer now smelling like a wet Labrador retriever. Hello REWASH!

Peach fuzz which is why I am an avid summertime nectarine aficionado.

I get so annoyed when I write down a long ass confirmation number from a bill I just paid on the phone and realize that I went off the paper and wrote half of it on the kitchen table. Example:  CF# 3735960056940182597014. REALLY???

You are driving on the highway in the fast lane behind someone driving UNDER the speed limit. They eventually either move over into the slow lane or you pass them and see them on their cell phone talking or texting, eating or drinking anything, applying makeup or shaving, or drinking coffee out of a ceramic kitchen coffee mug.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Making of the Mole Hole AOL Interview

The video link for the AOL video "The 'Mole Hole': Price of Living Alone? The Worst Apartment Ever":

A couple months ago, I was fortunate enough to receive an email out of the blue from an AOL producer concerning one of my blog articles that I posted, “The Mole Hole”. Annie Carroll was interested in filming a video interview of it for an AOL series on bad real estate experiences called "My Next Move." It would document the horrible experience and what you learned from it. How excited was I! After “checking out” the producer (of course from the advice of my big sister Sheryl), I determined she was legit and I emailed Annie back saying I was very much interested in it.

For those that don’t remember or haven't read my blog post, “The Mole Hole,” it is about my worst apartment experience. It was such an odd little trashy studio that my sister Sheryl openly sobbed about it when she walked in, quickly asking if I could get out of the lease. I proudly said that I could not. She sobbed again. After months of living there, it gained the moniker the "Mole Hole" for various reasons including the windowless back room which slanted underground.

Annie and I emailed a couple times about the project and I decided I was definitely into it. We set up a phone conference with her and the associate producer, Kelly, and discussed the Mole Hole blog at length.  The AOL gang would come down to Philly, interview myself, then my sister and I, and then film location footage.  Lastly Annie reminded me not to wear anything too crazy or loud as it would not look good on camera.  I would later choose the perfect boring beige shirt.  I knew I saved that boring shirt for some reason.

I called my sister Sheryl who was initially excited but then subsequently freaked out when I sprung on her that we would be interviewing at her house. "WHAT?!?!" I clearly remember her screaming over the phone. The rest of the initial conversation I can't print. Luckily, the excitement of the news crept back in and Sheryl was all for it. 

Annie, Kelly, and camera woman Rhiannon all traveled down for the afternoon from NYC. Once in Philly, they scouted the Old City neighborhood where the studio was located, recording footage to use for the video. Upon arrival at my sister's home, they were offered beverages and pastries by my sister, ever the gracious hostess.  The ladies set up in Sheryl's dining room. Annie would interview me.  Kelly would assist her taking care of sound and Rhiannon would be on camera.

Annie coaching me along in the interview.
Sheryl and I were so impressed with the three women. These young professionals were so on point with their equipment, sound, lighting, and the entire interview process. After set up and several adjustments to seating, lighting, etc, we began the interview. Annie led me through while coaching me to speak about the "mole hole" in response to various questions.

I began to get bored with myself (believe it or not!) constantly talking about this apartment but Annie reassured me that I was doing fine and giving her great material to use.  It  is definitely a lot harder than it looks. I told the same story over and over again but Annie was a trooper, encouraging me and laughing along the way.  She really put me at ease.

I learned alot about the interview process along the way such as how easy sound travels. I was tapping my foot ever so slightly out of nervousness and Kelly would calmly say "I can hear your foot."  or when Sheryl was being interviewed, "The mike is tapping your necklace." And then her mike fell completely down her shirt. Just the little things that one doesn't think about which can disrupt an interview.

Are you capturing my good side Rhiannon?
I fumbled over words, stopping and asking to restart. After a bit, I was started to get more comfortable and would just stop and after a pause begin speaking again, knowing that Annie could edit out the mistakes.
And then there was the sweating!  We had lights on us but they were not THAT hot. My nervousness (What do the commercials call it? Stress sweat?) took over and I tried sitting on my hands to avoid raising my arms. I also sat on my hands because apparently they oddly gravitate towards my neck when I am being filmed.  Uh, don't ask.
Sheryl and I then interviewed together and we felt our banter was great. After all, Sheryl was a major figure in the blog article. We laughed, talked over each other as usual, and completed each other's sentences. This is normal for us. Throw in our brother Adam and sometimes the conversations become so seamless it is scary! I love how close we all are.

I have to say that my sister's house, inside and out, never looked better.  We were also happy to see so many pictures of our family present in the background of the video.  All of the panicking getting the house ready paid off in the end. Although Sheryl became obsessed with the outside footage at one point, trampling her own garden to remove a pot that I swear no one would see! Several lilies fell that day. God bless them. I just stood staring at her grapple with some hanging pot she was forcibly trying to remove from her railing. 

Unfortunately they were not able to use the interview footage with Sheryl and I. They took almost three hours of video and condensed it down to just over three minutes. I can't even have a conversation in that short of a time span! There just wasn't time in the arc of the video to bring her portion in. We were disappointed. I think I was more disappointed than Sheryl but she took it all in stride.

Me attempting to act and look like I know what I am doing!
Sheryl did though, make it into the beginning in a photo of she and I from the 90's as well as in the B-roll footage they took after the interview. Annie wanted us to look like we were "apartment hunting."  I think it came out great, even with the "disapproving sister" shaking her head no at my apartment choices!

The acting part was weird. I felt completely out of my element and self-conscious walking up and down my sister's outside stairs. (Sheryl's house stood in as a potential apartment building.)  Again, our producers and camera woman put Sheryl and I at ease reassuring us we were doing great. Didn't they just see me walking stiffly down Cambridge Street several times like I was wearing a cast on each leg?

Can I try that stiff walk again?
All in all, it was truly a wonderfully eye-opening experience into the world of filming and video production. Annie, Kelly, and Rhiannon's professionalism in the filming and interview process made for a great afternoon and memory for Sheryl and I. And in the end, their seamless editing could make even this monkey look good. Check out the video below through the link. Eventually, towards the end of June, the video garnered over 250,000 views. Not bad for this frazzled and bumbling blogger!

If you haven't seen it, here is the link again for the video:

And by the way, I never realized that they use stock video footage in videos like this such as the art gallery opening and the toilet footage. My toilet was never that quite dirty. My mother would have been mortified!