a content='IE=EmulateIE7' http-equiv='X-UA-Compatible'/> Roberta's Realities: January 2012
"Don't be scared of your hunger. If you're scared of your hunger, you'll just be one more ninny like everyone else." - Olive Kitteridge - from the book 'Olive Kitteridge' by Elizabeth Strout

About Me

Danbury, CT
I'm a full-time substitute teacher at a large middle school. Married for just about 29 years with two grown sons (both redheads)! I'm living life with courage! One son is a Central Connecticut State University graduate and has a degree in Journalism - he minored in Cinema Studies. My younger son just received his BFA in Visual Communication Design from The University of Hartford where he was a student of the Hartford Art School. We are owned by a frenzied dachshund named Otis and a very large rabbit!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Teachers and Parents Respond to NCLB Reform in Danbury, CT

What I thought was going to be a meeting with Congressman Chris Murphy from Connecticut discussing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reform actually turned into a meeting chaired and run by his education policy advisor, Linda Forman.  Chris Murphy should have been there, it was actually a large turnout!  Here is Linda Forman's email and phone number.  She wants people to contact her about NCLB in Connecticut.  Linda.Forman@mail.house.gov or 202-225-4476.  Let her know what you think. 

Shortly, the House and Senate will reauthorize the bill that was introduced to the house in March of 2001.  NCLB became law in January of 2002.  I won't begin to try and describe all of the intricacies of NCLB.  If you want to learn more about it click on this wikipedia NCLB link.  Suffice it to say that in 10 years it has turned happy and satisfied professional teachers into teachers that are 'data driven' and not driven by the spark in a student's eye.  There were many teachers present at this meeting.  The depth of the despair from the teachers was palpable.  One teacher who is now serving on the Board of Education stated that NCLB has "taken the joy out of teaching and learning."  That's serious.  Our Assistant Superintendent, Bill Glass, called NCLB a "colossal failure" and stated that it has "destroyed American education in just a ten year period."

Over and over again we heard from experienced teachers and frustrated parents that the Federal government should stay out of education and if they truly want to be involved then, "show us the money".  The same frustration was voiced regarding teacher pay being related to students test score performance.  One 6th grade teacher asked, "Would you pay a Dr. based on how many patients he has 'cured'?"  The bottom line from teachers...Teacher pay based on test scores is 'insulting'.  And this from another astute teacher, "What about 'specials teachers' like Art, Music, or Physical Education?  There are no test scores tied to them.  How would their pay be assessed?" 

Many spoke against the proposed options of vouchers, magnet schools and charter schools stating that those schools skim the best students from the public school 'pool' leaving the public school system with the most needy students to educate which in fact skews test results.  Within seconds Linda Forman, Murphy's education policy advisor, stated that Congressman Murphy supports 'High Performing Schools'.  What high performing schools?? The ones that are defined as 'Magnet', 'Charter' or 'Private' schools that have 'high performing' parents that can negotiate the application or lottery process and help their children every night with homework that they understand in a language they understand?  The voters need clarification.

Again and again we listened to teachers and parents pleading for children to be looked at as a whole and not a 'score'.  Children learn at different rates and while we need to pay special attention to our special education children and English Language Learners we have been grossly neglecting our gifted and talented children and those interested in the arts.  It is no secret that funding is cut from those line items first.  Those are the children that have truly been 'left behind'.

The wisest thing we heard tonight??  It was a 70 year old woman in the audience who spoke so very eloquently about her education experience.  She said that her teachers were not 'highly qualified' by today's standards and perhaps only had 1 or 2 years of school at a state run 'Normal School'.  These teachers were passionate, caring, involved and highly qualified!  She went on to describe how she and members of her family suffer from dyslexia and that it pains her to know that she would be one of the students causing a sub group to fail by today's standards.  She believes that NCLB was 'written with good intentions but also written on the pavement to hell'!  Take heed. 

Just one last thing.  Dr. Sal Pascarella has come under fire again and again in the Danbury School District for a variety of issues.  This afternoon he stood by his teachers.  He was a teacher again - and that was nice.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Retro Cold Remedies

I had to deal with a cold this week.  It's really the first time I've been uncomfortable in a long time and with this landing during a work week it was that much harder for me to deal with.  Especially after I realized I was taking cold medicine that had expired!  Figures.  But like I said, I don't normally suffer with winter maladies of any kind. 

I thought this would be a good time to write once again about recipes from our past that were used to heal the sick.  Over one hundred years ago there were very few medications available (certainly not for the common cold) and doctor visits were left for the most serious conditions.  I have a memoir written by Mildred Armstrong Kalish titled 'Little Heathens' that describes her childhood during the depression in Iowa.  She describes cold cures that included rubbing the chest with Mentholatum or Vicks Vaporub and anyone with a long unrelenting cold was
"made to eat onions baked in ashes - a treasured remedy of the oldest generation.  After the fire had been banked for the night, an ancient great-aunt would bury whole, large, unpeeled yellow onions in the ash box of the kitchen range, where the residual heat lasted long enough that the onions would be totally cooked through by morning.  Everyone who was coughing was offered a portion for breakfast."
She also talks about homemade horehound candy and how that was a favorite remedy of all the children.  I found a recipe for horehound candy in her book but you would have to be willing to have an herb garden in order to properly create this...and have seven cups of brown sugar ready to go!  Oh, and you'll need a candy thermometer and...you know what?  Go to your local store and just buy some.  Many larger markets still sell horehound candies in the cough drop aisle!  If you would like to learn more about the horehound herb, click on this wikipedia link. 

Mrs. Beeton's 'Book of Household Management' (originally published in 1859) suggests this concoction to cure a cold,
"Put a large teacupful of linseed, with 1/4 lb. of sun raisins and 2oz. of stick liquorice, into 2 quarts of soft water, and let it simmer over a slow fire till reduced to one quart; add to it 1/4 lb. of pounded sugar candy, a tbsp. of old rum, and a tbsp. of the best white wine vinegar or lemon juice.  The rum and vinegar should be added as the decoction is taken; for, if they are put in at first, the whole soon becomes flat and less efficacious.  The dose is half a pint, made warm, on going to bed; and a little may be taken whenever the cough is troublesome.  The worst cold is generally cured by this remedy in two or three days; and if taken in time, is considered infallible."
Of course, just standing over all that hot steam as you're cooking up this mixture might just clear your sinuses.  Could be.

We've all been taught to have chicken soup to alleviate the symptoms of a bad cold.  In my Rumford Cook Book the following recipe is offered in the 'Recipes for the Sick' chapter.  It's an early molded chicken recipe. Yum.

Chicken Chartreuse

1 cup cold cooked chicken
Salt, pepper and a little grated lemon rind
1 egg
1 cup chicken stock, or half stock and half cream
2 level tablespoonfuls granulated gelatine.

Mince the chicken finely, pass through a sieve and season to taste.  Soak the gelatine for ten minutes in the cold stock or stock and cream, then heat to boiling point and, when the gelatine is dissolved, strain it over the chicken.  Add the yolk of the egg lightly beaten, then the white beaten to a stiff froth.  When partly cooled turn into a mould and put aside till very cold and set.  Unmould and cut in thin slices.

I think I'll just endure.  By the way, I bought lots of new cold medicine today and they asked me for ID!!  This was news to me but that's how long ago I spent money on cold remedies.  They scanned the barcode on my driver's license before I could purchase an over the counter cold medicine.  That just seems wrong.  Somehow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't Be an Ostrich - Get a Mammogram!

I debated for quite a while about this post.  It was my 18 year old son that convinced me that I should write it.  I had a mammogram today.  Everything is fine.  You have no idea how important and significant that previous tiny sentence is until you have been through a time when things were not fine.  I was diagnosed with very early stage breast cancer when I was 43.  I just turned 50 earlier this month.  What I had was Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS).  If you have to deal with a bad mammogram and the resulting tests and treatment this is about as good as it gets.  Because of early detection I had a lumpectomy (August 15, 2005) on my right breast and 6 weeks of daily radiation treatment.  I did not need chemotherapy.  My last radiation treatment was on Halloween of 2005 (because God likes to mess with me).  I am now over 6 years 'out' and am down to one mammogram per year.  For many years I had them twice per year.  I still have over 5 clinical breast exams per year.  That's getting old.  I won't begin to tell you that it was an easy road.  I'm a tough chic though and continued working right through the radiation treatments.  I would go to work during the day and go to the hospital for radiation in the late afternoon.  Sometimes you just have to power through the difficult times. 

Of course, you can't go through something like that without finding the humor in it.  When I had the biopsy (stereotactic on August 1, 2005), I couldn't help feeling like I was on a car lift.  The biopsy is performed while you are laying face down on a bed that is raised above the surgeon and nurses.  Bizarre.  In order to make sure that the proper location was targeted during radiation I had three small tattoos placed on my chest.  Nothing big - they look like freckles but at least I was able to tell my boys that I got tattoos before they did!  Every day my chest was marked up with purple sharpies before my radiation treatment.  I looked like some kind of weird science fiction character.  I still can't help thinking about radiation therapy every time I see a purple sharpie.  Funny.  I guess the most noticeable aftereffect is my scar and the fact that my right breast is smaller than my left - take my word for it.

So...this post is nothing more than a heartfelt plea to make the appointment.  Get your mammogram.  In fact, take care of yourself and get the physical that's overdue and any tests that you know you need to have done.  I know too many women who go through life like ostriches with their heads in the sand.  Don't do that.  It can be deadly.  Wouldn't you rather be a smiling ostrich?  I'll write more about how we used to cook tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

'Snow Cream' - Or...The Cure for Bored Kids in a Snowstorm!

My mother actually reminded me of this and I thought it would be a good day to pass along an activity for children that has been used by moms for many years to keep kids busy and happy during days when other activities are not possible.  Of course, now our children can always be entertained with television, movies and video games but it's good to have something like this to offer as a diversion.  When I was young I vaguely remember collecting snow which my mother would turn into a 'snow cream'.  It's one of those things that can only occur in winter and is special because you get to eat snow!  Don't let any fears you may have about what might or might not be in the snow stop you from trying this.  You'll live.  What's more, your children might just walk away with a happy memory.  While I don't have an actual recipe for this I did find one on www.pinterest.com (I love that site).  Here's the pic but I'll type the recipe in case it's hard to read.

Snow Cream

Beat 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, 1/2 cup milk.

Add Snow.

So simple.  I can remember collecting the snow and my mother would pour warmed maple syrup over it.  Same effect.  Kids get to eat snow that's been sweetened!  What could be more perfect?  You could also put the snow in an ice cream cone of some sort and pour chilled fruit juice over it.  Even if your children take a bite and are done you've succeeded in getting them outside and creating something fun to try.  In addition, just think what your children will say to their friends.  Don't you have some 'fussy' moms that you would love to shock because you let your kids eat snow??  Of course.  Let them eat SNOW!!

I found some interesting information about the history of ice cream on foodtimeline.org if you would like to expand your ice cream knowledge!  Just click on this ice cream myths and legends link!   Also, according to my book 'Life is Meals' by James and Kay Salter, the emperor Nero, ordered runners from the Alps to carry snow to Rome, which his cooks flavored with fruit purees into a kind of sorbet.  Later, Marco Polo rediscovered something like it in China in the 13th century and brought it back to Italy.  Even later, Catherine de' Medici traveled from Italy to France to marry Henry II and carried with her the idea of iced desserts (along with her cooks, recipes for her favorite foods and seeds).  Click on this Wikipedia link to read more about Catherine de' Medici.  It's a good read on a snowy day!

Here's a short video I found on You Tube.  I have this cook book titled 'Dining on a Dime' and this is the author, Tawra Kellam, demonstrating how to make Snow Ice-Cream.  Check out their living on a dime website here!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Our Theater Excursion to see 'Memphis' at The Bushnell!

Yesterday, my husband and I made the one hour drive into Hartford, CT to The Bushnell Theater to see the musical 'Memphis'.  Prior to seeing the show I confess that I hadn't heard much about it besides it's win in 2010 for Best Musical at the Tony Awards.  Learn more about Memphis by clicking on the wikipedia link!  We knew that it took place during the 1950's in Memphis, Tennessee during a time in our nation's history that is marked by sadness, anger, bigotry but most of all - courage.  So many of our nation's young people had the courage to stand up and call for change.  This show was about part of the change that music can bring.  It was an incredible show and we were surprised how quickly the time passed.  I spend a lot of time writing about the funny and often quirky years of the 40's, 50's and 60's.  These were some serious and difficult times and I don't ever mean to lessen the importance of the history that was taking place during those decades. 

There's a song in the show where the lyrics 'up North' are repeated over and over as a prayerful hope for a different life.  My mother was a student at The University of Alabama for two years between 1955 and 1957 before she married my father and moved 'up North' where she knew things would be different.  She was a journalism major whose articles about desegregation were not well received by her contemporaries.  She had a taste of life 'up North' when she spent a semester in Chicago at Northwestern University.  Her eyes were opened.  I'm glad they were.  One person at a time, change has slowly come.  There will always be prejudice and bigotry (certainly not like we experienced before) but one person can make a difference.  I saw that my 18 year old son was watching a documentary about Dr. King today.  I'm glad he chose to spend part of today learning about an important part of our past.  Here is a You Tube clip from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech.  He was assassinated the next day. Prophetic.


Here's a short clip from 'Memphis'.  If you have the opportunity to see it in a city near you, go.  You won't be disappointed.

And this.  I don't mention this often but I work at a super large middle school in Danbury, CT.  Broadview Middle School is led (and I mean led) by Ed Robbs.  We, the students, staff, volunteers and families are so proud to follow his leadership.  Please read this Danbury News-Times article by Stacy Davis.  He was honored today along with others in the state... but we are proud of him.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why the Pineapple is Important on January 11th!!

I wrote a series of posts months ago about themed dinner parties in the fifties and sixties centered around Hawaii becoming a state in 1959 and the increased marketing of pineapple by 'Dole' during that time.  I vowed when I was done with those posts that I would give the pineapple a well deserved rest.  Nap time is over.  You see, I learned something today and I'm glad you're still interested.  I learned that on this day in 1813, the first pineapples were planted in Hawaii.  It was also on this day in history that Amelia Earhart took off from Honolulu to make the first solo flight from Hawaii to California.  I gleaned these facts from a food reference book I have titled, 'Life Is Meals' by James and Kay Salter.  While pineapples first originated in Brazil (or Guadeloupe - there's some disagreement) most pineapples now come from Hawaii.  As an interesting aside; Fifty years ago, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel had a fountain in the lobby that provided fresh pineapple juice! I bet that was fun with the kiddos!  Here's a link to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel if you want to just take a look at this historic hotel.  It was where President Franklin D. Roosevelt frequently vacationed and where the term 'Western Whitehouse' was first used.  It's 80 degrees there right this minute.  That hurts if you live in a cold climate.  But maybe some of these wacky recipes with pineapple will warm you up a bit.  Or maybe you'll just get annoyed and book a vacation!

Pineapple and Lettuce Salad

1 medium head lettuce
1 No. 1 tall tin crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Pimiento or paprika

Shred outer lettuce leaves and combine with drained pineapple, add mayonnaise, and toss together until just mixed.  Serve immediately on remaining heart lettuce leaves with a strip of pimiento or a dash of paprika for garnish.  5 servings.

The above recipe is one from the Meta Givens book, 'The Modern Family Cook Book' published in 1942.  Remember, at the time, salads were to be served looking 'prepared' not just thrown together like a mess.  Of course, we're all about the 'messy salad' here!

Let's flash forward to 1958, when the 'Thoughts for Buffets' cook book served up these suggestions for molds.  I still haven't figured out why molded recipes tends to drive my readership up.  I don't get it.  But, why knock a good thing?!  Here's to molded food!

Pineapple and Cucumber Ring

2 - 20 oz. cans crushed pineapple, drained
2 large cucumbers, chopped and drained
3 1/2 cups liquid (pineapple juice and sufficient water)
2 packages lime-flavored gelatin

Drain pineapple and cucumbers thoroughly and combine.  Heat 1 cup of liquid to boiling and dissolve gelatin.  Add remaining cold liquid and stir.  Place in refrigerator and set until slightly congealed.*  Fold in the pineapple and cucumbers.  Pour into a greased 8-cup mold and chill until firm.  Garnish center of mold with watercress and border with cantaloupe slices and pickled peaches.  Sprinkle with blueberries.  Serves 10.

*Just the word 'congealed' in a recipe is enough to turn my stomach.  Yuck.  And I just get the feeling with all the 'garnishing' going on with watercress, cantaloupe and blueberries that it's a little 'busy' or maybe the idea is to hide the molded salad. Maybe.

Pineapple-Noodle Ring Mold

1 8-oz. package broad noodles
1 16-oz. can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup brown sugar, scant
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup melted butter

Cook noodles for 15 minutes in boiling salted water; drain.  After draining the crushed pineapple, combine 1/4 cup of it with 2 Tbsps. of the brown sugar and set aside.  Mix the rest of the pineapple with the juice, brown sugar, beaten eggs, and melted butter.  Add the noodles and mix thoroughly.  Pour the pineapple and brown sugar mixture which has been set aside into a well-buttered 1 and 1/2 quart ring mold.  Add the noodles and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Serves 6-8.

First of all...using the word 'mold' in a recipe title just seems like a bad idea.  Secondly, this recipe doesn't seem that bad!  It actually sounds like it would make a sweet side dish to go with ham or pork.  I approve. 

As a tribute to Hawaii (click on the wiki link to learn more about our 50th state) I am providing this recipe from the late 50's or early 60's that I found among Juddy's recipes that just is well...it deserves a mention. 

Hawaiian Grab Bag

2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/2 cup Horseradish (drained)
1/2 tsp. MSG
2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients for sauce.  Bury "Treasure" into sauce.  Arm guests with toothpicks and let them spear for treasures.

Treasures (Select at least 5)

Cherry Tomatoes
Cucumber Chunks
Green Pepper Chunks
Water Chestnuts
Avocado Chunks
Boiled Shrimps
Pickled Mushrooms
Raw Oysters
Celery Chunks
Cooked Chicken Liver Chunks

Isn't this the most disgusting thing ever?  I guess this would be for a party where an enormous amount of alcohol would be served.  Pineapple isn't mentioned as a 'treasure' but I'm sure you could substitute it for one of the other 'chunky' items and your guests would be thrilled.  My guess is that if you got ill after this treasure hunt that there would be 'chunks' everywhere!  Sorry.  Had to say it.

Anyway, January 11th may be a nothing day to you but it was incredibly important to the history of Hawaii and the future of the pineapple industry!
Enjoy this 'retro' Dole commercial for Hawaiian pineapple.  I don't think they could do this today...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Warmth and Fondue!

I was reading through some recipes that might be good to have on a cold winters evening when I stumbled upon a recipe for cheese fondue that came from the October 15, 1956 issue of Vogue.  Because this is a 1956 recipe I don't have to warn you that there is quite a bit of alcohol involved!  Not a fondue to serve the kids.  Here's a link to foodtimeline.org for more recipes and a detailed history of fondue both in Europe and here in America.  The recipe card that I'm typing this from is singed on one edge so I know it was enjoyed!

Cheese Fondue 

Cut into small pieces:

1/2 lb. American cheese
1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese

Cover it with 3/4 cup dry white wine.  Permit this to stand for an hour if possible.  Stir over a low heat.  Add 2 Tbsp. brandy.  Serve very hot with toasted crackers or French bread.

You may fold in 2 beaten eggs if the fondue is too gooey.
Fondue can be cooked in a double boiler or a 9 inch Pyrex dish set in a pan of hot water.

Now on cold winter nights this would certainly take the chill out of anyone!  This recipe seems to be before the advent of the electric fondue pot craze.  I found a picture on pinterest just for fun.  Stay warm!

Here's a fun clip from 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' as they share a cheese fondue '70's style!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Journey from Macaroni to Pasta!

I've been thinking about this post for several days now.  Some of my writing comes very easily but this took a lot of research.  A lot.  I started to notice something interesting while looking through my collection of heirloom and vintage recipes - there are none including noodles or pasta.  None.  In my collection of what I consider to be 'retro' recipes from the 1940's forward I was able to locate a few but not many and most of those use broad egg noodles or elbow macaroni.  I found out some interesting facts from consulting some of my tried and true cook books. 

I consulted my borrowed 1942 cook book by Meta Given, 'The Modern Family Cook Book' which describes spaghetti, macaroni and noodles as used in the American diet chiefly as a substitute for potatoes.  She further goes on to say that these starchy 'cereal foods', as she declares they are, offer little nutritive value alone except as a source of energy.  She also states that all macaroni and noodle products should be rinsed after cooking and draining.  That is no longer recommended!  In Alton Brown's book, 'I'm Just Here for the Food', he clearly states that pasta should be boiled in generously salted water without oil (it does absolutely no good) and after draining should not be rinsed.  How times change.  But let's return to the 1930's. 

In 1937 Kraft introduced it's boxed 'Macaroni and Cheese' product which made life much easier for homemakers when rationing during World War II was in full swing.  In 1943 one box of Kraft Mac and Cheese only cost 1 ration coupon.  That was a deal.  In fact, cheese sauces were the first introduced to the public as a good pairing with 'macaroni' or 'noodles'.  We didn't start to become comfortable with the word 'pasta' until much, much later.  Remember, during the 1940's we were at war and anything Italian was well...not tolerated well.  Gold Medal Foods printed some recipe cards during this time that attempted to encourage the use of 'Macaroni as a Food'.  They said Arnold Lorand, 'the famous nutrition specialist of Carlsbad, says: "We have every reason to give first place to macaroni as a nourishing food."  And this, 'Charles E. Sohm, public analyst on subjects of nutrition in New York, says: "Macaroni deserves a far more prominent place among cereals in the homes than it occupies at present."

This brings me to an interesting part of our nation's history.  During the 1930's President Roosevelt created the Federal Writer's Project under the New Deal's Works Progress Administration as a make-work initiative for authors.  Their mission was to chronicle the eating habits and traditions of Americans.  This 'America Eats' project was abandoned in the early 1940's because of the war.  In Mark Kurlansky's book, 'The Food of a Younger Land' he explores this project and provides some of the manuscripts to give us all a clear picture of what life was like for Americans 'before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional.'  If you consider yourself a 'foodie' or just someone intensely interested in our nation's history,I highly recommend this book!  Kurlansky highlights one WPA author named Mari Tomasi who wrote about something called 'Italian Feeds' that were popular in Barre, Vermont.  Barre (at the time the largest granite center in the world) attracted hundreds of skilled workers from northern Italy.  Many Italian women discovered they could make a business of hosting 'Italian Feed' nights in their homes.  Mari Tomasi goes on to describe the feast awaiting the customers in these homes but felt the need to describe in great detail what ravioli, prosciutto and antipasto are along with other Italian specialties.  These foods were 'exotic' and rare during this time period unless you lived in a place like Barre, VT where many Italian immigrants had settled.

Let's flash forward to 1955.  This is the time of themed dinner parties and experimentation with International cuisine.  I purchased a 1955 Italian cook book recently and love it for one reason.  The original owner had written notes throughout the cook book as she used it!  It's one of a kind now!  This cook book, 'The Art of Italian Cooking' by Maria Lo Pinto offers explanations of Italian cooking terms and tells us that 'pasta' is dough!  She enlightens the American cook by describing 'ricotta cheese' as Italian cottage cheese and informs us that the fancy sounding 'prosciutto' is nothing more than Italian ham.  She further states that in order to make most of the dishes contained in her cook book you will have to venture into an Italian market.  That might be a problem in 1955 depending upon where you lived!  But as the years progressed into the 60's and 70's more and more Italian dishes were being served and our palates were being stretched.

Here is a recipe that has floated around in my family for years (note: I am not Italian but married a man who is half Italian).  This recipe is the actual recipe printed in a newspaper insert called Today's Living dated June 25, 1961.  I have a somewhat updated recipe that I'll share sometime in the near future but it's basically the same.  My husband's Italian and Polish recipes will be saved for future posts, too!


2 Tbsp. butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 pound ground beef
1 can (1 lb., 3 oz.) tomatoes
2 cans (1 lb. each) chili with meat
1 8 oz. package spaghetti*
3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup dairy sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet melt butter; brown garlic, onion, and ground beef.  Drain off excess fat,** then add tomatoes and chili; simmer about 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in Cheddar cheese until melted; then fold in sour cream.  Combine chili mixture and spaghetti, mixing well.  Turn into 2-quart casserole.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Yield: 10-12 servings. 
Note: Chili-Ghetti may be prepared ahead and refrigerated until ready to bake.  It may also be frozen after baking.

*Just a quick thought.  All recipes for pasta or macaroni call for a 7 or 8 oz. package of macaroni, noodles or pasta.  Try finding that now.  Almost every package I currently have is 16 oz!  But beware, food packaging is doing something magical...look for all those boxes of pasta to shrink to 13.75 oz!  And the fun part - you'll still pay the same amount!!

**First time I've seen a direction in these 'retro' recipes to drain off excess fat!  Were we starting to get a clue?

Speaking of 'getting a clue'.  If you're at all concerned about eating pasta that is more healthful for you, check out this Dreamfields Pasta website and see what they have to offer.  I've tried it and it really is good!  Here's a link to a Dreamfields coupon if you're going shopping soon and want to try something different!

Just for fun - Here's the commercial from 'Prince Spaghetti'!  A classic.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How I Escaped from the DMV!

I had put off the inevitable long enough.  There are some tasks that we just dread doing.  I will do anything to avoid standing in line at the DMV.  After 6 years my driver's license needed to be renewed.  They mailed me my renewal information weeks ago but I was determined to not enter that building until I absolutely had to!  I thought I had a 2 week grace period after my birthday but after reading the instructions found that not only did that no longer exist but if you did renew after your birthday there would be a $25.00 fine!  Great.  And so I was stuck.  The deed had to be done today.  My birthday is tomorrow.  Happy Birthday.

You would think that I ended up standing in line after line in the sea of humanity that is the DMV after a long holiday weekend.  Not anymore.  And this is how social media has proved itself once again...I was complaining about my plight through twitter when one of my twitter friends responded with an alternative.  She suggesting going to one of the AAA motor club sites that operates as a satellite DMV license renewal location.  Who knew?  I guess an awful lot of people did but I was out of that loop!  When I went to work today and mentioned this option everybody raved about it.  They went on to wax poetic about the lack of lines and the refreshing atmosphere with fountains, waterfalls and palm trees - seriously.  You see the AAA also is a discount travel agency.  Amazing.  I was warned to not linger there or I might be tempted to buy a vacation.
It was just as I was told.  There was no waiting and the gentleman (he was just that) took several photos and let me peruse them and approve it before the license was printed!  Try and get that service at the state run DMV!  The service was quick, people were polite and I did not feel like I was in some sort of 'great equalizer' experiment.  And let's face it, a trip to the DMV can demoralize the best of us.  While there will be times when visiting the DMV is inevitable, our family will go to the AAA satellite office for license renewals from now on.  I actually felt like they valued my patronage - and so I bought a family membership to AAA...and an 'Entertainment' coupon book.  Then they told me about the free maps.  Oh my.  Well, it wasn't the mall but I left with a gift bag and all sorts of goodies and the feeling that I was - what's the word - oh - important.  And on the day before my birthday, that's a good thing.

If you're compelled to learn more about the DMV, please visit the wikipedia link! 

Or...just watch this short Family Guy clip that I found on You-Tube.  Kind of sums everything up!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Post Christmas Gift Giving Idea

This may seem a little crazy - perhaps a lot - but I ordered some gifts that didn't arrive in time for Christmas gift giving (my fault) and was so pleased with what arrived that I had to pass on this idea!  I was intrigued when ABC news did a nightly feature in November and December about supporting American companies and products.  They featured a different American company every night and encouraged all of us to take just a small amount of our gift giving budget and purchase products 'Made in America'.  The theory is that if many Americans did this then countless jobs would be created in our own country!  I decided to give it a try.  If you would like to explore this ABC feature check out the link. 

It's easy to say you're going to purchase American made products but actually finding them requires a lot of digging.  I did find that Bed, Bath and Beyond carries a large supply of American made Tervis mugs and accessories.  They can be purchased with all sorts of logos and fun designs.  Visit Tervis.com to see what they have to offer or go to Bed, Bath and Beyond if one is nearby!  But for my gifts I was looking for something a little different, off the beaten path and maybe offering a little 'winter warmth'.  I was browsing through http://www.overstock.com/ and found a selection of gifts they offer that gives back. 

The name itself intrigued me.  The Women's Bean Project just made me want to learn more.  What I found was a collection of gifts made by American women that are trying to find meaningful employment after facing difficult life challenges.  According to information in their catalog,

'Women's Bean Project has two businesses manufacturing gourmet food and handmade jewelry.  In these businesses we employ women who have been chronically unemployed and impoverished, teaching them the basic job readiness and life skills needed to get a job and keep it.  Women work for the Bean Project for 6-12 months and, upon graduation, transition to a career entry-level job in a variety of industries.'
You can learn more about the Women's Bean Project by going to this link.  And if you're one of my friends or a family member that receives a Bean's Project gift for a birthday or special occasion...try and act surprised.  Here's a short video that describes The Women's Bean Project.  Take a few minutes to watch it.