Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Copper Pennies Recipe


My mother had this recipe for a chilled carrot salad since the late 1980's.  I thought it was a bit odd and dated but after research, I found that it originates from the South and goes back quite aways. There are a number of variations online. It may also be known as sweet and sour carrots. I've seen versions made with brown sugar instead of regular sugar. There are also versions using white vinegar for a bit of a more sour flavor.  I mean, even Paula Dean has a version!: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/copper-pennies-recipe.html

I'm not sure where Mom got her recipe. She never made it for us. I have a number of recipes from my father's side of the family from his family ranch in South Dakota. Alot of them are either salad recipes or cookie recipes. I am thinking maybe Mom's version came from out there. I made is skeptically and was quite surprised with how much I liked it. Since there is no mayonnaise in the recipe, it would really hold up on a spring or summer day! It is a perfect refreshing salad for a BBQ or picnic.

Copper Pennies by Abby Deeds

2 lbs carrots - peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch coins (I used these bagged oval crinkle-cut carrots bought at Weiss Markets. They worked out quite nicely.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 large onion diced
1 large pepper diced (Mom didn't specify but I used a green bell pepper.)
1 cup (5 1/2 oz) tomato juice
1 tspn prepared mustard (I just used yellow mustard.)
1 tspn Worcestershire sauce
1 tspn salt
1/4 tspn pepper

Cook carrots until crisp-tender then drain.
Combine all remaining ingredients in large bowl. Mix well.
Add carrots and stir until well mixed.
Cover, refrigerate 3-4 hours.
Serve cold.
Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Yields 8 cups.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Suicide Note from Angie

Not all in life is sweet, happy, and nice. As we get older, most of us realize this. The trade off is that we gain wisdom from those parts of life which aren't so rosy.


The other evening, John and I discovered a suicide note in an old book which he bought for me at a large church yard sale in Berks County, PA.  I hadn't looked at the book yet and had put it aside to look through at a later date.  I was putting clothes away when he picked it up off of the table.

"Oh here is the book I bought you," he stated.
"Yeah, I just haven't gotten around to looking at it," I replied.
"Did you know there is a letter in it?"
"Um no," I responded absentmindedly hanging up clothes.

John began reading the note. At first, I thought he was making the contents up. I quickly realized we had stumbled on something grave.  Shivers went up and down my spine.

The note was discovered in the beginning of a book he bought titled I Have Fought a Good Fight:  The Story of Jewish Mission Pioneering in America by Joseph Hoffman Cohn, dated 1953.  On the front of the note was handwritten "To Whom It May Concern."

I don't know why but I just feel compelled that I had to share this woman's haunting note, her pain, and her remorse.

March 14,

To Whom It May Concern,
First of all I've got to make an apology to 3 of the nicest people anyone could ever know, the Bolt brothers. I owe them such a great apology more than can be written on a sheet of paper, but I can't do any better than a sheet of paper. It was me who started the whole thing, it was all my fault. I've tried to think of a way out but I've been unsuccessful. But one night I thought of something, if I didn't exist anymore well there'd be no one to take away. Everyone, except Jebodiah, would be satisfied & happy. What I'm going to do may be sometimes called suicide, but that word seems like the person committing it wants to die, I don't want to die, I have to die. The way I'm doing it will all turn out to seem like an accident. I hope you'll accept my apology. I'm truly sorry.

Love, Angie

No year was given. The paper is old notebook paper, yellowed and stained by years in that book. John and I estimated that it must be at least 20-30 years old.

So many questions:  What did she do? What was she referring to? Was she forgiven? Did she take her own life?   Is the title from the book, I Have Fought a Good Fight, a symbolic message or just an ironic twist?  Was the note left in this book specifically for someone to find? Was the note ever found? Or did someone specifically save the note in the this book?

So many unanswered questions on this one.

Suicide is never an answer. It pains me to think that this woman did not get the help that she needed or she felt she had no other option other than ending her own life.  I truly hope she found the peace she was looking for.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Matzoh Ball Soup and Sauteed Chicken Liver Spread!



Ingredients for making matzoh ball soup
My sister Sheryl came out to Lake Wynonah for Passover this year. I decided I would make a couple of family recipes for her and John while Sheryl made her famous apricot chicken and tzimmes dish.  I chose my family's recipes for matzoh ball soup and sauteed chicken liver spread. Now before you turn up your nose at the thought of sauteed chicken livers, I have to tell you that my Mom's recipe is soo good, you just may be won over.  But for the faint of heart, I decided not to show me cleaning up those chicken livers due to the ick factor!

I remember my Nana Newman made matzoh balls or knaidlach (Yiddish for dumpling) from scratch each year for the Jewish holiday.  Nana's were not too big and not too small. As a young child, my family would dine at the Ellisburg Delicatessen in Cherry Hill, NJ where they would serve one huge softball sized matzoh ball in a small bowl with broth. I hated that. Call it the kid mentality but I felt I was getting cheated with just one huge matzoh ball. If I got several smaller ones, I felt I got more. Not to mention that the larger the matzoh ball, the more uneven it could be in the center. You'd think a good Jewish delicatessen would have known this. Oy vey! What are ya gonna do?

Rolling those matzoh balls




Mom once recounted to me of one of her Passover memories when she sat down with her parents, my Nana Sarah and Grandpop Herman, and Mom's grandparents on her father's side, Adolph and Augusta Newman. Adolph had a long, curled wax mustache which was very de rigueur during his time. Mom was a very young child and she was with other kids, possibly her cousins, at the Passover Seder. Great-grandfather Adolph was eating his matzoh ball soup with long noodles. The noodles apparently kept getting caught on his curled mustache. This stern German man never cracked a smile and acted as if nothing was wrong as the children stifled their giggles and laughter.

Having matzoh ball soup was the best part of my childhood Passover Seders. Mom once mentioned to me that Nana's secret was that once they were cooked, if you could bounce them on the counter top, they were perfect. I think the culinary theory behind this was that if they bounced, then they had just enough give and were not too dense.


Passing the bounce test!

Unfortunately, Nana did not pass down a recipe to Mom and so instead, I used a recipe of Mom's for the matzoh balls. And yes, they DID pass the bounce test! Sometimes they can be rather bland, dry or gummy.  Mom's recipe for matzoh balls came out great. Not to dense, just spongy enough, and full of flavor.  It felt great making such an authentic Jewish recipe from (almost) scratch!  I did everything myself except grind that matzoh meal. Thank G-d for Manischewitz!

Chicken soup with matzoh balls!

Mom's other recipe that I made was a sauteed chicken liver spread. This is a traditional Jewish appetizer. The recipe was actually pretty easy but a bit just laborious. There are several steps and it can get a bit messy. Besides cleaning the chicken livers which was not the most pleasant part, you had to saute them, then roughly chop and blend them. I am happy to say it was well worth the effort. They were flavorful and smooth. I blended mine with some chicken stock to make the spread a bit smoother.

Sheryl mentioned that most recipes including our family one, call for a courser chop of the chicken liver spread and not such a smooth consistency. Well let me tell you, my dear sister definitely enjoyed the sauteed chicken liver spread, even with a smoother consistency! LOL. She was even happier when I sent some home with her. I served the spread with broken pieces of matzoh, each about the size of a tortilla chip.


Sauteed chicken liver spread with matzoh
Now as a child, I never liked chicken livers. I think because I associated chicken livers with beef liver. I remember my Nana often trying to serve us kids calves' liver and onions. Mom made it for us on occasion, too, because it was a cheap meal. I just could not stomach the flavor or consistency of liver. The only way I could muster myself to eat it was drowning it in ketchup or I would go to bed hungry. However, I loved those sauteed onions!  Now I will happily enjoy the chicken livers but I'll still pass on the calves' liver, thank you very much.  There's not enough ketchup in the world!

These two recipes really pushed my culinary envelope. I am proud that I could honor my family's heritage by making them. And they both actually came out great.  The recipes are below with any changes I made.


MATZOH BALLS or KNAIDLACH by Abby Deeds

4 eggs beaten
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup melted shortening or chicken schmaltz (melted chicken fat) or 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 tspn salt
dash of pepper
1 cup of matzoh meal

Add water, shortening, salt & pepper to beaten eggs. Mix well. Add matzoh meal and stir well. Allow to stand 20 minutes to thicken.
Form into small balls and drop into boiling water. Cook for 20 minutes and then add to soup.

***I used margarine as I couldn't find any chicken schmaltz. John, my favorite Italian Catholic, called me from a local Berks County butcher and asked if I could use pork fat instead..  Poor John, he got quite a lip from me explaining how matzoh balls made with pork fat would NEVER work! Something do to with ...uhm... being Kosher? He took it well. Hahaha.

CHOPPED CHICKEN LIVERS by Abby Deeds

Serves 12

1 pound of rinsed and cleaned chicken livers
4 tspn of chicken schmaltz or 2 tspn margarine or butter
2 onions diced
3 hard cooked egg yolks
1/4 tspn black pepper

Wash and clean chicken livers and remove any spots. Drain well.
Heat 2 tspn fat (1 tspn butter/margarine) in a pan. Brown the onions.
Remove the onions and sautee the chicken livers in a skillet for 10 minutes.
Grind or chop the onions, livers, and egg yolks to a course mixture.
Add salt and pepper and the remaining  2 tspn of fat (1 tspn butter/margarine).
Mix to taste. Serve with broken pieces of matzoh.

***Again, I used margarine ... see the anecdote above! LOL. This was easy but just a bit time consuming getting everything ready. If you have your ingredients, it can go quite smoothly.  Next time I will not make such a smooth mixture though. Mine came out to the consistency of a pate' but it still had great flavor.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring 2014 and Lollipop!

Beautiful forsythias in our yard
Ahhh, the Spring! .... sneeze, wheeze, cough, cough.  I think my allergies contributed to writers' block this past month! April was a hard month for me emotionally. It has been 5 years since Mom's passing and I think I was finding it still hard to deal with the anniversary. I did visit her at her gravesite up at Fort Indiantown Gap military cemetery and paid my respects. It can still be so difficult.

This year's Spring brings much yard work needed to clean up the Winter's mess.  The Fall is my favorite season but nothing beats the Spring for breathing new life into you after the doldrums of Winter.

Dead :(
Last week John and I surveyed the yard to see what we needed to do in terms of clean up after that horrible winter. Lemme just say that there is alot! Some of it was upsetting. When temperatures dipped down to the negative digits over the winter, many bushes and trees suffered as a result.

I think Mrs. Bentz's rose bush died. Haven't seen any life on it yet. Mrs. Betnz was the former home owner. Better not let my dear neighbor Charlotte see it, she always admired it. Although now that I think more of it, I don't think she would really care. I asked her once if she conversed with Mrs. Bentz and she stated in a huff, "I didn't socialize with the Bentzes of 413 Mohave."  Um... OK, are we in prewar America? Not to mention, I know my home's address.

Only one of three butterfly bushes have started blooming, hopefully the other two haven't died. The rhododendrons lost several limbs on each plant but I do see buds growing in other places. They still haven't bloomed yet either. I lost two silver maple trees which were in large jardinieres (FANCY POTS). They had survived for many years, but not this past winter. We also lost a holly bush by the back of the yard. No reason why but all the leaves have fallen and there are no buds. It was so cold this past winter that deer ate the greens off of our evergreen bushes, stripping one down to the branches.  I killed a small evergreen by trying last Fall to transplant it to ... hold for it ... another jardiniere!  Poor little guy didn't last the winter.
Trying to regrow grass.

I do have a bumper crop of dandelions. Yes, Lake Wynonah residents, I know they are there, thank you very much. :)  I shake my angry old man fist at them each morning leaving for work. The cold wet winter brought the moss to spread across the entire yards so we have been
digging it up and replanting grass.  And for the first year since we have been here we have a carpenter ant infestation in the house which we have been battling. It seems to get better and then they send out raiding parties. EVERYTHING food related is now in storage containers, in the pantry off the hall or in the fridge.   We finally gave in and placed a call to Ehrlich's for some professional help.
The salamanders survived!

And lastly, our hummingbirds are not yet back this year. I have put out food in case they return. I am heartened by the knowledge that my good friend Bonnie who lives on the big lake has them back!

Now with the good news! I counted a flock of 16 returning robins in one of our silver maples one morning in March. The holly bush nesting robins of 413 Mohave (thank you Charlotte) are back in their nest for a 4th year in a row. I have spied American goldfinches, a pair of cowbirds, the cutest little Eastern bluebird and loud brassy cat birds at the feeder. One of the chipmunks survived which means more cannot be far behind. The salamanders who live off of the side steps survived as well.

The forsythias are doing well. Our chives are growing quickly as are the lilies of the valley.  And every flowering tree in the yard has finally bloomed, albeit a little late.

Blooming!!!

I also have my health. There are always others worse off than us. Can't ever forget that.

Little Peace Farm in Schulkill County
Lastly, I want to tell you about an organic farm I discovered not more than 3 miles from my home. It is called Little Peace Farm in Reedsville, PA. This quaint farm is run by Michael and Emily Scheidel for the last several years.  From their website Littlepeacefarm.com :  "Little Peace Farm is a small family farm offering a wide selection of chemical-free produce, cut flowers and herbs." John and I went to a yard sale their this past weekend and we bought Roma tomato plants, herbs, and organic free range eggs. The one daughter I spoke with stated they had 100 layers putting out eggs.

Barn cat just hangin' out at Little Peace Farm.
I love free range farm eggs and actively look to support businesses such as this one. If you can, try and support this local business!

For those that live in Lake Wynonah, the farm is about a mile off of Rt 183 by the Pioneer Pole Building company.  You can get directions from the map on their website. But the best part of our visit out there, besides yard sale finds and farm fresh eggs, was that we got to meet and become friends with their calf, Lollipop! I couldn't stop smiling at this beautiful calf. It made my day.

Lollipop the Calf!