Friday, July 6, 2012

Drink Your Dinner!

Grandma had the surprise of her life yesterday!  She went down to check the mail, right in the middle of the day, and found that the mailman had left so many big envelopes and packages that she could barely carry them up the stairs!  The Advanced Reader Copy books had shown up a day early (more about one of them later), Grandma got a new gadget and somebody sent Grandma a birthday present that had her squealing "Oh-my-god" for a good ten minutes. (More about that later too.) Just about the time Grandma stopped squealing, there was a knock on the door.  Wondering if perhaps she had made so much noise the neighbors had thought something was wrong or the police had come to call, Grandma opened the door to find her youngest daughter, who got out of work early and decided to drop by to spend the afternoon.  This is the post Grandma intended to write yesterday, but first a glimpse of that gorgeous antique rosebush the size of a Volkswagen Grandma posted a picture of a few weeks back.

Still blooming!  Grandma hopes there will be rose hips . . . 

This has been a Gadget Month for Grandma.  Last week she got this handy-dandy Dirt Devil Power Air Lightweight Stick Vac

You might not know it, but Grandma has a huge aversion to sweeping the floor.  For many years Grandma was married to a man who almost every day for over a decade would sit in the kitchen watching Grandma sweep the floor while he carried on a constant commentary:  "Who taught you to sweep a floor?"  That isn't how you sweep a floor!  You start over there, not there!  That isn't how the Army says you sweep a floor!" - Every. Single. Bloody. Day!

Back then, of course, women were more prone to put up with such shenanigans in the name of maintaining peace in the household than they are today.  Eventually, though, Grandma could no longer hold her tongue, so instead of whacking said husband over the head with the broom, she handed it to him.

Him:  What's this?  (hmmmph)

Grandma:  Your broom

Him:  Whaddaya mean, "my" broom? (hmmph)

Grandma:  I mean I've listened to you b**ch (Grandma did say it right out loud!) about the way I sweep the floor every day for more than ten years, but you have never once held the broom in your hands.  Make good friends with it, because it is now your broom.  I will never sweep another floor until the day that you die!

After a week or two he realized that Grandma only very rarely doesn't mean what she says and that this wasn't one of those times.  Tired of crunching the cookie crumbs from all the kids under his boots, he started demonstrating daily the Army's method of sweeping the floor.  Grandma's rebellion and refusal to go along to get along anymore was the beginning of the end.  A couple of years down the road she went out and rented him his very own abode and gave him permanent custody of the broom!

He still isn't dead yet.  Grandma still does not push a broom if there is any other conceivable way to clean the floor.

Mostly, Grandma has used a nice big powerful Hoover vacuum cleaner, the kind with the special HEPA filters for people who are allergic to dust.  (Yes, yes - Grandma knows that even the best vacuum cleaners don't do corners.  That is what a new broom and children are for!)

Of course a nice, big powerful Hoover  is, well - big -and not so easy to store.  And it is not exactly lightweight.  Grandma loves her Hoover, but it has become a major project for Grandma to get the nice, big, powerful, heavy vacuum cleaner out of where it lives to clean the floor.

After stumbling up the stairs with the box (it was lighter than this week's stack of books!) and assembling the Dirt Devil Power Air Lightweight Stick Vac in a flash, before even bothering to look for the directions, Grandma put that little vac straight to work!  It has made short work of crumbs and bits of onion peel in the kitchen, bits of boxes and paper shreds all over the living room and all of the feathers that had escaped from Grandma's pillows in the bedroom. It has cheerfully munched a dropped taco chip or two and even some bigger bits that Grandma usually has to get down on the floor and crawl around to fetch - all without a single hiccup.  Grandma can push it around without having to go lie down afterwards, it is so small it fits beside the trash can (though Grandma might put up a hook for it in the hall) . . .  Grandma couldn't be happier!

At least, Grandma thought she couldn't be happier.  Until she stumbled up the stairs yesterday with the great pile of packages!

As many of you know, Grandma has a rather large collection of cookbooks (Grandma's daughter got another bookcase put together yesterday - only two more should do it!  For a while at least . . ) and she often likes to take them into the kitchen to actually cook from.  For many years Grandma has weighed down the corners with canned goods, the bottle of cooking oil, a small frying pan - whatever was heavy and handy - so she didn't have to keep going back and finding her place.

She's tried typing out the recipe she wanted and printing it out instead, but that wastes time and paper - and leaves bits of recipes all over the kitchen.  A cookbook stand is the answer, of course, but Grandma has never once found one to suit her.  They have been too big, not washable, not portable, taken too much counter space, not easily cleaned and often definitely more money than Grandma wanted to spend to save herself the hassle of holding down the book corners with peas and corn.  Until yesterday.

The very first box that Grandma opened contained . . .  an OXO Good Grips Pop-Up Cookbook Holder

Grandma bought her very first OXO products a couple of decades ago out in Arizona. She still has that little paring knife somewhere.  Over the years she's bought dozens of things and never been disappointed with even one of them.

Can you spot the Cookbook Holder on Grandma's new bookcase?

 Made of heavy-duty plastic that is easy to wipe clean, Grandma tested this with little books, big books, fat books, heavy books, a magazine she found roaming around and even her iPad!  You can keep the clear splatter guard smudge-free with the same kind of cleaner you use on your computer screen or iPad or Kindle.

Grandma even tested it with -

OMG!OMG!! OMG!!! - the special early birthday present that arrived in the mail:

Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook

Grandma first "met" Darina Allen a few years back in the pages of her Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why and has been following her ever since.

Ballymaloe House

Darina is a very interesting woman.  Way back in the Sixties,  Myrtle Allen, Darina's mother-in-law, opened the Ballymaloe House Hotel in County Cork, Ireland.  At the time, it was one of the very few restaurants in Ireland that wrote a new menu every day.  (One of the true gems in Grandma's cookbook collection is a First Edition copy of Myrtle's The Ballymaloe Cookbook)

In the late sixties Darina, fresh out of cooking school, came to work for Myrtle at Ballymaloe House.  As she tells it, the first person she met when she arrived was Myrtle's son Tim.  Eventually, she married him and started a cooking school.   One of Grandma's dreams is  to visit there for a day or a week or a month!

Grandma did not try the OXO Good Grips Pop-Up Cookbook Holder with the other book that came in the mail that Grandma is very excited to be able to read.  As you might know, Grandma collects Julia Child, whose 100th Birthday will arrive on August 15, 2012.   Wasn't it such FUN when Grandma ripped open a big yellow envelope and out popped

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

This brand new biography of Julia from author Bob Spitz will be released on August 7, 2012 and is currently available for pre-order.   There have been other biographies of Julia, of course, notably My Life in France and As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto.

Unlike those and others that concentrate almost entirely on Julia's cooking career, Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child contains a wealth of information about Julia's parents and grandparents, her early life in Pasedena, her years at Smith and her time in the OSS, as well as a number of new photographs.

Grandma noticed that Amazon is offering a  Pre-Order Special - 5% Discount when you order Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child and Mastering the art of French Cooking 50th Anniversary together.

How Grandma wishes should could read two books at the very same time!  Grandma did scrounge some extra reading time though . . .

Drink Your Dinner!

Yogurt is extremely good for you and Grandma consumes a lot of it.  Loaded with calcium, protein and Vitamin D,  yogurt also happens to be "good for what ails you."  The live bacteria that are the "active culture" in good yogurt help to replace your body's normal bacterial flora when it has been wiped out due to illness or certain medications.

Grandma's  favorite brand of yogurt is Brown Cow Cream Top yogurt. The Brown Cow Farm website is loaded with recipes and coupons that they renew on the first of every month.  There are currently $4.50 worth of coupons for various Brown Cow products.  You can print one of each offer per household per month and the coupons are good for 10 days after you print them.

Stonyfield Farm's Cream on Top yogurt is Grandma's other favorite and at least here in Vermont, a bit easier to find.  Stonyfield also makes the Yo-baby and OIKOS brands of yogurt.  The foil seals on containers of Stonyfield Yogurt all contain a code that you can collect for rewards that range from coupons to Patagonia backpacks and Green Glass tumblers.   Grandma particularly has her eye on the magazine subscriptions - Martha Stuart Living, Everyday Food or Whole Living.  You'll need to register on the Stonyfield website.   They, too, change their coupons on the first of the month and offer the same One Per Household, Good For 10 Days terms that Brown Cow offers.  There are currently $11 worth of coupons, including two 75¢ coupons for ice cream and frozen yogurt.

When Grandma doesn't feel like cooking anything at all, she has three GoTO yogurt recipes.  For two of them you do not even need a spoon!

The first recipe, Mango Lassi, is one of the most popular beverages in all of India.  Here's the recipe that Grandma uses, taken from one of her favorite Indian cookbooks, From Mom With Love: Complete Guide to Indian Cooking and Entertaining   

Mango Lassi

Refreshing Mango Yogurt Drink from the Punjab

Serves 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes

1 1/2 cups fresh or canned mango pulp
2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup ice, crushed

Blend all ingredients except ice in blender until smooth.  Add crushed ice and serve in tall glasses.  Spoon out foam from blender on to top of lassi in glass.

Grandma Says:

  • You'll need 1 or 2 ripe mangos.  The video showing how to easily cut a fresh mango into dice is on this page.
  • This recipe may easily be cut in half
  • Feel free to substitute honey or agave syrup for the sugar.


Sometimes Grandma just wants something more savory, something like this lovely cucumber-yogurt drink/soup/sauce/dip.  This one is Grandma's own recipe -

One of the things that Grandma has noticed over the years reading through all these cookbooks is that as recipes travel sometimes the name changes while the essentials stay the same.  Such is the case with what is known in India as Raita and in the Turkey/Greece/Balkans area as Tzadzicki.  Call it what you will, start with cucumbers.

Grandma's RaitZicki

Peel the cucumber, then cut it into quarters and use the tip of a teaspoon to scoop out all of the seeds, leaving only the outer shell.  Slice the cucumber into strips 1/8-1/4 inch wide lengthwise, then cut crosswise into small dice.

Put the cucumber into a bowl (you should have about a cup) and add

2 cups or so of plain yogurt  (if you want a dip use Greek yogurt or well drained regular yogurt)
1 or 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
the juice of one lemon
salt to taste
chopped fresh herbs - choose from mint, dill, thyme and oregano  (Mix them up - Grandma does!)

Add 1/4 of a small-medium red onion cut in very tiny dice &/OR a teaspoon or two of freshly grated zest from the lemon

Stir everything together and refrigerate it an hour or so to let the flavors blend, though it will keep for a couple of days.  You can serve this as a cold soup or salad, use it as a sauce on Gyros, an accompaniment to curry.

Grandma Says:

  • Grate the seeded cucumber rather than chopping it and leave out the onion, then blend the RaitZicki for a minute or two and pour it into popsicle molds for an icy-cold savory treat.

Enjoy - and stay cool!

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