Moving to

I’ve moved again. My mother used to hate it when I would call her and tell her I was moving again. She would have to write a new address card in her Rolodex and make sure to throw out the old one. I used to do it about every 18 months after college. That’s a lot of Rolodex cards. She couldn’t hate moving as much as I did, what with all the change of address cards, movers, utilities, etc., but sometimes a girl just has to move on.

For those of you who follow this blog, it started as an e-newsletter via When the company that owned the Erie Times-News, and GoErie, was sold, I continued it for awhile after I left my job there. But when they didn’t want to pay for it anymore, I decided to continue on my own. So I kept the name and set up shop as Make It Erie on Some of you followed and signed up for my e-mail and some of you just followed me on Facebook or Twitter. In the next couple of days, if it hasn’t happened already, the transfer of your e-mail subscription should go to the new site.

But the time had come to move to a different hosting service, and that meant rethinking the name of the column. I chose because it reflects that this is a family, food and travel blog. Make It Erie, while useful, seemed to limit the posting to just about Erie. While Erie will be front and center, it won’t be a defining parameter.

I don’t like to be fenced in. Just ask Mom (and my ex).

Things are both simpler and more difficult moving around in the digital age. There’s still baggage to move from one place to another. Instead of moving vans, it is file export and import, URL transfer, a plug ins to add. Long way of saying, I think I’ve moved all the boxes from the site to (a site, sort of like moving across town instead of across states). Ideally, the e-mail list will have migrated as well.

It’s not perfect yet. Think of the site like a new home with a lot of boxes to unpack. I will be unpacking for awhile, so it may look different from one visit to the next (at least I hope it does).

What’s in it for you? Ideally a cleaner site. A better recipe format. Eventually, I’ll be able to add video.

But first, let’s just try this post and a recipe for Zoodles with Pesto, Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes.

Zoodles with Chicken, Pesto and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Zoodles, zucchini noodles, are a great way to use up those summer zucchini and squash. They aren’t going to fool anyone, but with the addition of some zesty summer ingredients such as pesto and grilled chicken, they will disappear off plates. This recipe was inspired by Living, Loving Paleo
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5-7 minutes
Passive Time 10-15 minutes
  1. Using either a manual or electric spiralizer, transform your squash into noodles. Cut into several sections, otherwise they are too long to eat.
  2. Lay the noodles onto a plate or baking dish lined with paper towels or, better yet, a linen dish cloth. Sprinkle generously with salt. Let sit for about 10 minutes to draw the moisture out. Then roll up in the paper towels or linen towel and press out extra moisture.
  3. In a large saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil and additional salt, if desired. Saute for a minute or two until no longer raw. Add pesto, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Saute for about 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through. Remove from heat.
  4. Arrange on plates. Top with toasted pine nuts and basil leaves to serve.

This recipe is inspired by Living Loving Paleo


Foodie Friday: Philly Inspiration

Philadelphia is a food-lovers kind of town. Whether you want a fill of street food such as cheese steaks, roast pork, or soft pretzels, or have a hankering for a five-star meal, this town has a lot to offer.


All things Philly pretzel at the Reading Market.

The first stop has to be Reading Market, where you can find all of those things, and lots more, under one roof. A better name would be EatPhilly, because that’s what it’s all about. You can grab a seat for breakfast or lunch, which I did with BU alum Sean Kardon one morning to catch up; buy some food to take home to prepare; or just graze your way through.

We were there for the DNC, which meant it was a madhouse around lunchtime. Although Kardon, who works for SEPTA (public transit), says it’s a madhouse around lunch every day. It was hot and I was overwhelmed on my first visit. Advice to visitors – go early and have a plan.


A single blueberry crunch pie with buttermilk lemon ice cream at Vernick.

After multiple consultations with YELP, Trip Advisor and more, friend David Kidd, who lives in L.A., sent me a link to the Washington Post’s guide to eating there. Top on that list, a visit to Vernick. This relatively small restaurant has a reputation for being top-notch, so much so that one of our Uber drivers, who owns his own restaurant, says it was his favorite. It was good, but it’s not in my top three, except for the dessert, which was a blueberry pie served with a buttermilk lemon ice cream and blueberry sauce. It was neck and neck with the dessert at Butcher & Singer, a lemon icebox pie. Overall, for ambiance, service, and the steak, Butcher & Singer was the fave of the week in Philadelphia. The 18-ounce steak, split between the two of us, was pricey but worth every bite. It was perfectly seasoned and cooked. I will forever be spoiled by the steak. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was finishing his dinner there as our appetizers were served.


Urban Farmer Philadelphia, which has a Cleveland location I will try, took tops for the appetizer, which was a cold seafood plate that included shrimp, oysters, lobster and mussels served in a large colander filled with ice ($65 for a small, which is enough for 4 as an appetizer). The wagyu steak, enough for two,  was equally pricey as the Butcher & Singer, but not nearly as delicious. It did have the added benefit of being searched by the Secret Service upon entering because an unnamed bigwig was staying at the associated Logan House (Secret Service means either POTUS, FLOTUS (past or present) or Joe Biden). They couldn’t say whom  (or they would have to kill us – actually they would lose their job).  Other than that, the environment, for what you are paying, is not particularly inviting. The space is open and modern. The lighting and seating, while comfortable, is more reminiscent of a high-end cafeteria. The service, however, was excellent.

Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, in the now-hip Fishtown, was worth the visit. With its two kitchens, one featuring a wood-fired oven, this is a fun spot where shared ordering is encouraged. It can get a bit noisy because it is filled with 20- and 30-somethings having a really good time. The chicken under a brick was perfectly seasoned, cooked and served on a cutting board, perfect for two. The desert menu was underwhelming, but I probably didn’t need it anyway.

Estia Restaurant was a find via a friend from Scranton. This Greek restaurant was across South Broad Street from our hotel in the arts district. This was a two-stop spot for lunch. Definitely try the sampler platter with tzatziki, melitzano salata (eggplant),  and htipiti (roasted red pepper, cayenne and feta). Hummus comes complementary with bread, but don’t dig in to the bread until the platter comes because the warm pita is to die for. My Mediterranean salad with roasted eggplant, salad greens and calamari, was to die for, so I ordered it twice. ABC’s George Stephanopoulus reportedly was dining alone at a nearby table(I forgot my glasses).

The trip was inspiring in so many ways, but one of the first things I made when I came back was a blueberry crunch pie, with this recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

Blueberry Crunch Pie

1 9-inch pie shell, docked and baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until light brown

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar



4 tablespoons flour

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


5 cups blueberries

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries.


3/4 cup flour

1/3 cup  brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

8 ounces, 1 stick, butter, cut into 8 pieces

In a medium-size bowl, mix together flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Scatter the butter pieces on top. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, work the ingredients together until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of large peas. Set the topping aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

To bake: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar on the bottom of the baked pie crust. Add blueberry mixture. Sprinkle topping over. Place pie on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, until bubbling and brown on top.

Remove from oven and cool.

Serve with ice cream.

I will be working on the buttermilk lemon ice cream for a future column, but I loved the tang, sweet and citrus combination with the pie. I’ll also be working on the lemon ice box pie because I definitely want to try that one again.

Enjoy your weekend. Make the most of the blueberry season.




Camp Cousin Concludes (and there was lots of chicken)

The sun set on Camp Cousins – a gathering we try to do every summer in the town where we grew up, Erie, Pennsylvania. My parents still live here, but my brothers and sister left and settled in New York, Virginia and Missouri.

My brothers, sister and I are 4 1/2 years apart, from the eldest to youngest. There are 8 cousins in all, and four of them are rising high school freshman. So we are a close-knit group in age, if not geography.

This year the New York Meads couldn’t make Camp Cousins and we missed them. My daughter and I caught up with the New York branch in Florida in April. And the Virginia Meads visited with them earlier in July. We are fortunate in that we all remain close, which is something we wish to pass on to our children.

In the beginning, it was mayhem. Toddlers. Nursing babies. Cribs. High chairs. Floaties. Schedules. No schedules. Meltdowns. You know, typical kid stuff.

As they have grown up, we have learned to let go. There is still adult supervision on the beach, but now they drive around the neighborhood in the golf cart. There wasn’t much Pokemon Go, which is good. But they were Snapchatting, etc., with one another and friends at home. The rising high school junior had lacrosse training to keep up with, including running, dragging three kayaks down the beach, and a trip to the gym. One cousin came late, after competing in a sailing race for the Junior Olympics on Lake Ontario.

pater and ice cream

Pater, center, with grandsons  William and James Hickey (Missouri) and granddaughters Emily (Virginia) and Nicole (Pennsylvania) Mead.

Some years there is the mandatory Waldameer trip, but this year was just too short (a long weekend) to manage it. There is ALWAYS a trip to Creamland in Fairview, Pennsylvania. The weather cooperated and they were in the lake for many hours at a time.

My daughter arrived during one Camp Cousins 14 years ago. The cousins arrived (there were only four then) and I went into the hospital. By the end of the weekend there were five cousins. Nicole was the first girl.

Camp Cousins has changed months over the years – lately settling in late July/early August – several weeks before Nicole’s birthday. With the departure of the cousins, one significant rite of summer has passed, with another major one (birthday) to go before Labor Day.

We plan to make the most of the remaining summer days. I hope you do, too.

beer can chicken

Beer Can Chicken

This is a favorite of mine. There’s debate as to whether it makes it more juicy or not. Or decreases cooking time. For me, it means an easy roast chicken that doesn’t burn or heat up the kitchen. I often cook 2 at a time so I have plenty of leftovers for summer sandwiches and easy dinners of salad topped with chicken, fresh fruits and veggies and some crunchy nuts.

1 whole roasting chicken, 4 to 5 pounds

Olive oil

4 tablespoons dry spice rub, divided (We like Grill Mates – McCormick – Applewood Rub)

1  can beer, root beer, ginger ale, lemonade
 Remove neck and giblets. Rinse chicken inside and out if desired; pat dry with paper towels. Coat chicken lightly with olive oil; season with 3 tablespoons of dry rub. This can be done the night before for maximum flavor. Refrigerate until about 30 minutes before cooking.

Build a fire or heat a gas grill. Use a can opener to remove the top of the beer can, pour out about 1/2 of the beer. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon of dry rub inside beer can. Sit chicken on top of the beer can, so it appears to be sitting. Transfer whole chicken to the grill, adjusting to make sure it does not tip over. I cook over a low direct heat in the Big Green Egg, maintaining a temperature of around 400 degrees. If you don’t have that kind of control with your charcoal grill, cook over indirect heat (moving the coals to one side and cooking the chicken over the side without the coals).

Cover and cook chicken for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees  in the breast area and 180 in the thigh. Carefully transfer chicken to platter. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before carving. You can try to carve with the chicken still sitting on the can, but it is easier to transfer the chicken to the sink and remove the can before carving (it will still have liquid in it).


Happy August





Making History in Philadelphia



Inside Independence Hall. At the tables sat the representatives from the Colonies. On the dias was George Washington.


Historic actor in front of Starbucks in Center City, Philadelphia

The art of compromise was never more apparent than during a trip to visit Independence Hall the day after the official nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic presidential candidate. After evenings of booing and chanting and protests, Independence Hall seemed a civil way to spend a late morning.

The visit is free, but you do need to get timed tickets at the Visitor Center, a simple matter. Once you pass through security, the Park Service will guide you into an air-conditioned room to go over some of the basics of American history – such as how the British instituted a tax on the American colonists to pay for the French and Indian War. The main taxes were sugar, tea and stamp (paper). Here we were reminded that the states at that time felt like individual countries, but one uniting factor was taxation against representation.

We were instructed about how Thomas Jefferson was chosen by the Second Continental Congress to write what became the Declaration of Independence because he was diplomatic, unlike some of his Northern brethren. He learned how he wrote it in less than three weeks, but there were more than 80 revisions made during the meetings ultimately led to the signing on July 4. There were issues that weren’t resolved, such as slavery. Benjamin Franklin wanted wording abolishing it; but the language wasn’t included because it would cause the Southern states to revolt. Thomas Jefferson, in fact, had a slave with him in Philadelphia. So compromise was in order for the greater a good, an issue that would be revisited 80 years later when Abraham Lincoln visited the same spot. Perhaps knowing this was the intent of some of the founding fathers.

I was thinking about this an hour later as we sat down to lunch at the City Tavern, a reconstruction opened in 1976 and on the same site where George Washington once met with the Marquis de Lafayette. The menu isn’t original to the 1700s (thank heavens), but you can feel how parties with different opinions would gather and resolve their differences over drink. Behind us were supporters of Bernie Sanders (who dined at the same restaurant as we did the night before) who were going to leave before Clinton gives her acceptance speech on Thursday. This too parallels what we heard at Independence Hall. There were representatives from the states who left and declined to sign the Declaration of Independence. That is our right in this country – the right to express our differences.

“However hard it may be to picture the founders resorting to rough-and-tumble tactics, there was nothing genteel about politics at the nation’s onset,” wrote Ron Chernow in the Wall Street Journal. “For sheer verbal savagery, the founding era may have surpassed anything seen today. Despite their erudition, integrity, and philosophical genius, the founders were fiery men who expressed their beliefs with vehemence.” Ron Chernow is the author of “Washington: A Life” and “Alexander Hamilton.”

Chernow wrote that in 2010. I anticipate that 2016 may come close.

Signing off in Philadelphia




DNC: First Lady saves convention


Two-hour bus ride to the Wells Fargo Center


Convention Day 1

The train hadn’t even pulled out of Union Station in D.C., when the news that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, wasn’t going to resign until the end of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. It was hotter than you know what in D.C., and apparently the Democrats didn’t mind stewing in boiling water.

I’m not a delegate to the DNC; I’m a guest of a Superdelegate. I do, however, have a lifetime of work experience with the media and personal understanding of the issues. I’m a single working mom, supporting a teenage daughter and am thankful that Obamacare has allowed us to be insured for a major medical condition and prescription drug coverage. I pay a price, but at least I can buy it. I am looking at paying for college. I have experienced job loss among family, friends and personally as a result of the changing global economy. And, as a woman and mom, I certainly would love to see, and have my daughter see, a woman elected president of the United States of America. My first political experience was working the phones for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy when he ran for president.

That said, I was stunned by the tin ear the Clinton campaign has to what seems to be common sense. Schultz had to go. And she certainly shouldn’t be gaveling in the convention. Instead, Superdelegate tells me that neither the Obama folks nor the Clinton folks are going to force her out. Instead, they are going to let an entire news cycle focus on DWS instead of party unity, which is a major issue.

Indeed, the next morning after the PA delegate breakfast, Superdelegate tells me the Clinton folks want to focus on this being the work of the Russians in support of Trump when the point is DWS should apologize and resign immediately. Instead we spend the day with her fighting to gavel in the convention at 4 p.m.

Maybe it’s all the partying that has been going on. The night before U.S. Rep. Brady of Philadelphia hosted an exclusive nonpolitical bash at the SugarHouse Casino, with a spread of Philly foods (roast pork, cheesesteaks, soft pretzels), and music (Bobby Rydell), and more politicians than I saw in D.C. This was under the umbrella of nonprofit Phantastic Philadelpia and there were more than 1,000 people registered. I spotted Ryan Bizzarro from Erie, but one of the most photographed men in attendance (besides Brady) was Ben Franklin (the man under the wig is quite good). Since the party was stretching into the wee hours, I’m sure the delegate meetings at 8 a.m. were a hard wake-up for many.

DWS was booed at her own delegation meeting. Finally, there was an intervention and she did not bring the gavel down at 4 p.m.

Getting there was quite the trip. The protesters, mainly Bernie Sanders supporters, blocked off streets. After a 2-hour ride that was supposed to take 20 minutes, we walked the remaining mile in 97-degree heat, passed through Secret Service security and Superdelegate took his seat, actually he stood because there were no seats left for the PA delegates. I had a seat in the nosebleed section.

Fortunately, a bus driver gave me the tip to take the subway back to the hotel – a 15 minute ride, tops. Here I could watch Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak (and actually hear and see them). FLOTUS was amazing. Much more inspiring than Hillary. I hope HRC can at least have a small glimmer of that type of inspiration on Thursday, when I will stay at the Wells Fargo Center to see her speak. Mainly to feel the reaction of the crowd, without the media interpretation.

The Bernie supporters, however, still aren’t buying his support of Hillary Clinton. His speech was impressive. He outlined what his agenda had actually accomplished – pushing Clinton more toward the anti-establishment than the middle, which is where she would like to go.

Today’s roll call will be telling. That’s when HRC will become the nominee. I expect the protests to continue.

Market Monday: Exploring a Virginia Farmer’s Market

It was so hot this weekend visiting the Virginia Meads that even the chocolate nor the doughnut sellers decided not to go the farmer’s market in Falls Church this weekend. There are 50 vendors at the market during the height of the season, so there were plenty of other vendors did show up, giving us plenty to choose from among the tomatoes, peaches, berries, cheeses, baked goods, organic meat producers and flowers that braved the 90-degree temps at 9 a.m.

imageWe arrived when it was a few degrees cooler at, oh 86 degrees a little before 8 a.m. By the time we left, it was too hot to even consider making any more decisions.
The stories of most of the vendors are fascinating. There’s the baker from Paris, Bonaparte Breads, of Savage, Maryland, who had exquisite pastries. The pane au chocolate were perfect, but she had selections that included multi-berry tarts, a blueberry and peach tart, quiche, almond croissant and lots of beads. I think standing in the sun for this alone was worth it.

Then there was Chris’ Marketplace, sellers of the most divine crab cakes. Chris Hoge, chef and owner, has been written up in Saveur, Gourmet and the Washingtonian. A fisherman who has worked the entire East Coast and down into the islands, says his secret was a sauce that accidentally fell into a plate of crab. The resulting seasoning was so perfect that is the reason for his success, he said. He’s got a second business going as well, making sopas from a traditional Mexican corn. He didn’t have any samples this weekend.
My sister-in-law Jenna picked up a bottle of wine from North Gate Vineyard, based in Loudoun County, Virginia. We talked wines, including Presque Isle Vineyards. it is a small world. Owned by Mark and Vicki Fedor, North Gate became a fully licensed Farm Winery in 2007. They produced their first grapes in 2002. An interesting dry wine they suggested was the Rkatsiteli, (you pronounce the “R”), which originated in the Republic of Georgia. A crisp white, it would be delish in the summer.
In addition to the fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers, we appreciated the prepared foods, which solved the dinner problem before I had finished my second cup of coffee. Cold Pantry Foods had a half-dozen types of frozen pizza to buy. The owners, Bob and Carol Vogel, started in business by selling pestos. But pesto is a limited product – so they use the pesto in all of their pizzas, which have a broader appeal.
We finished at a stop at Cavanna Pasta, which had a super array of homemade pastas. If I wasn’t traveling to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, I probably would have brought a cooler full to take home. We settled on the sausage tortellini and containers of homemade vodka sauce and a ragu.


imageAmong the other highlights were Sexy Vegie, out of Baltimore, which offered lots of hummus along with salads. I bought a beet and apple salad, which would have been great topped with some local goat cheese from a nearby vendor (Sexy Vegie is vegan). Alas, I left before I could enjoy it, but I’m hoping to recreate it later this summer.
Finally, I will get to taste the wares of Stachowski Brand Charcuterie, from the D.C. Metro Area, because Jenna bought some lamb sausage to bring to Erie at the end of this week for my father.

While hot, this was a great way to get a taste of this region of Virginia and have an easy dinner at the same time. Kudos to the folks in Falls Church.
Erie, are you listening?
With all of the bounty of the region, why is it so hard for Erie County to coordinate this effort. I would think as part of the Health Department war on diabetes and obesity, this could be a worthwhile project.
I am in Philadelphia this week watching the Democratic National Convention and will post more from the other end of our state.
In the meantime, this is one of my favorite summer recipes that was inspired by Martha Stewart.

Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad

3 ears of cooked corn, kernels removed
2 cups sliced grape, cherry or other small tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons finely diced red onion or 2 green onions, sliced
1 avocado, seed removed, and diced
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)

In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes with lime juice and salt and allow to sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the juices. Add remaining ingredients and serve.


Stay cool. Eat local.




Wednesday Musing: Class Reunion

reunionThe reunion of the Villa Maria Academy for Girls Class of 1981 reunion (and every other class that was celebrating a 5-year celebration of freedom from our alma mater) was this weekend. Despite living in the same town where I graduated from high school, I have never attended a reunion. Indeed, when I graduated I vowed never to step foot back into those halls along West Eighth Street.

Like most vows of 17-/soon-to-be-18-year-olds, this was not a promise I could keep. Various writing assignments over the years would take me back there, although most of the time I tried to find someone else to go. It was not a happy place for me.

I think high school is a largely divided time. There are those who love it and remain fond of their years there. I see this with the parents who eagerly sit on the sidelines at football games at Fairview High School even when they have no children playing. I’ve heard more people introduce themselves with, Prep Class of 19XX as a modifier.

It’s true I met a lifelong fried at Villa, which as all girls and independent of Cathedral Preparatory School at the time. We met through alphabetical happenstance – Mead and Miller – of seating charts. She was a tall, blonde, tennis-playing extrovert. I was a short, overweight, brunette who was a serious introvert. Somehow we became friends. She called me Watson to her Sherlock.

She went off to Smith College, and then to the University of Chicago Law School, where she settled. I went to Boston University and then to work for my family’s newspaper (with a stint at a newspaper in Peoria, Ill., during a 5-year break from Erie). I saw Claudette over the years more often than any of my classmates who lived in the same town as I did.

So, after 35 years, we decided to go to reunion. Or at least part of the reunion. We skipped the event on the patio at the school – I’m still not stepping foot in there if I don’t have to. Instead we went to an event hosted by Kristin Carnes Talarico and Laurie Balkovic Bretz at the Erie Club.

Claudette took the time to remind me, during the 20 minute drive, that we liked our classmates. It was the administration we didn’t care for. This is true. There were some teachers who changed my life, such as John Kupetz (English) and Sister Susan Doubet (Calculus).

So we walked into the Erie Club, where about 30 of our 140-some classmates had gathered. I caught up with Marcy Rahner, Sally Walker, Andrea Nagle Deveau, Dana Frazer, Mary Heise  Blatt, Mary Therese Bowen, Kerry Hughes, Paula Maus Cameron, Chris Weber Podufal and many others.

As we caught up, I mentioned that my daughter was going to high school in the fall.

“Villa?” Some asked.

“Fairview.” I said.

Heads nod.

Many of us agreed that Villa was not a particularly good school academically. Most of us noted when we went to college, our classmates – even from public schools – were better read and prepared for college than we were. My math skills were on the mark, thanks to Sister Susan, but engineering turned out not to be for me. At least not at a school as large as Boston University. Thanks to John Kupetz, my knowledge and reading of American authors was sound enough to get me into sophomore and junior classes. But my overall reading of English literature was sadly behind. There were huge gaps in my knowledge of world history and cultures. I had a lot of catch up to do. And I was in the advanced classes in high school.

But that’s ancient history. And now I’m caught up on classmates, and if I missed anyone, I now have e-mail addresses. But my focus is on the future, not the past. I have a daughter about to navigate those same grades, different hallways.

Claudette did remind me that plum season will be coming up and one of her favorite dishes is plum chicken.

roast chicken with plumsPlum Chicken

1 whole chicken, or 1 whole chicken cut up (about 4 to 5 pounds)
Olive oil
3 to 4 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
1 quart plums, cut in half and pitted
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup chicken stock (for the cut up chicken, optional for whole bird)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Pat dry chicken or chicken pieces and place in a roasting pan. Rub with olive oil and then generously season with salt and pepper. Place rosemary and garlic underneath the bird in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes.


In the meantime, mix plums with honey in a bowl.


Tuck all of the honeyed plums into pan with the chicken and return it to the oven to roast.


For the chicken parts, roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in the stock. Return pan to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.


To plate, put a piece of chicken on each plate and spoon some juices over.


If roasting the whole bird, roast for 20 minutes and check to see if the pan is dry. If it is, add half the stock. Return it to the oven and cook for another 20 to 35 minutes (depending on the size of the bird); the internal temperature should be 165 degrees in the thigh. Allow to rest 10 minutes and then remove chicken to a cutting board to carve. Reserve any juices and return them to the pan with the plums. Stir and spoon plums and plum juices on top.


Note: Discard rosemary before serving. You can squish out the garlic from its paper shell and stir into the pan juices or discard.




Market Monday: Up on Blueberry Hill

blueberry pickingThe blueberries were ripe for picking at Conn’s Blueberry Farm, which opened on Friday, in North East. Saturday dawned overcast, perfect for picking, and I headed out at 8 a.m. in 70-degree weather for the 30 minute drive.

You can choose from 3- or 5-quart buckets ($3 a quart), which you then tie around your waist or hang around your neck (waist is easier for me) to pick. About 10 other families were already in field, which opened at 8 a.m.

Overheard while picking:

Small child 1: Mom!!! M, put a blueberry up my butt!

Small child 2: Mom!!! M hit me with the bucket!

M: Mom!!! Look at all the green ones I picked!

Needless to say, it was a family affair out there.

Mom promised a blueberry buckle if everyone would just behave (and stop picking the green ones).

blueberry tree

In a half hour, I had 8 quarts – more than enough to make my mother’s birthday blueberry pie. I paid, put them in my own container for transport home. Alas, NPR had nothing to soothe me on such a delightful morning what with all the shootings and bombings and crazy people driving trucks into crowds in Nice on Bastille Day, which is my nephew’s birthday. This is all just terrible, but I would prefer to think of the lovely market I visited in Nice and had a coffee in the square after shopping. This begs the question of whether you take your children overseas to see these beautiful spots or do you let the terror win.

This was not a question I can answer right now. If it was just me – I am OK to go. I am 53 years old and can make that decision for myself. But there was a 9-year-old American boy who was killed, along with his father, in the Nice attack. And that is not OK.

And all of this has nothing to do with blueberries, but that is what happens when you spend 30 minutes driving each way to go pick fresh produce. So I decided to listen to Oprah and Deepak help me meditate on becoming unstuck in life. They are very calming, BTW.

I also bake to relieve stress. I made some modifications to Smitten Kitchen’s Blueberry Crumb Cake.  If you click, you get their recipe. My changes involve adding buttermilk instead of plain milk, lemon extract instead of vanilla and adding walnuts to the crumb topping instead of putting them in the cake. I also bake it in a loaf pan, instead of a cake pan, because I like the square slices. I like crunch on top of my cakes, not in the middle of the delicate crumb. This is best eaten warm, or the day of baking.

blueberry crumb cake

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Crumb topping

4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup  granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon (or a couple of good gratings) of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a food processor or blender, pulse together all the ingredients except the butter until crumbly. Add the butter and just pulse to combine. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon extract
240 grams of all-purpose flour (measurement is important in this recipe – if you don’t have a scale, this is about 2 level cups unsifted flour, minus 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 pint fresh blueberries

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and lemon extract. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk until incorporated (2 to 3 additions of each). Do not over mix. Fold in blueberries. Scrape batter into pan. Top with crumb topping.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (don’t worry about blueberry marks on the tester, just look for batter sticking to it).

Remove from oven, cool and serve.

Happy picking (or just plain eating).










Fresh on Friday: Corn

All spring and into early summer I watch the cornfields around my house as I ride my bike. First, they look like little weeds. Then they start to stretch skyward, reaching my knees and then shoulders. Mason Farms typically has fresh local sweet corn by July Fourth and so the season begins – stretching into September and October depending on the weather. By then, I will be interested in chowders and soups, but when it is 80-plus degrees, not so much.

Growing up, a dozen or so ears would go into a pot of boiling water, turning the kitchen into a steaming mess. Now I microwave it whole, husk on, after chopping off the bottom stalk and about an inch of the ear. Four ears are done in 4 to 8 minutes, depending on your microwave strength (mine takes about 6-7). If you allow it to cool, you can then strip the husk and silk easily off the ear.

I still buy corn by the dozen even though I don’t live in a house with brothers and sisters anymore. Then, a dozen ears would feed our family with no leftovers. Today, I typically have a half dozen leftover. I strip it off the ear and it goes into salads, salsas, breads and dips. I’ll share more recipes as the summer progresses.

But first, my favorite – a fritter/pancake with corn and zucchini. A true fritter, to me, would be round and puffy and totally deep-fried. Mine are more like pancakes cooked with just enough oil in the bottom of the pan to crisp them up, but not deep fry. It’s best made in cast iron skillet.



Zucchini Corn Fritters

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
Kosher salt
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
4 ears corn, kernels cut off
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
Canola oil for frying

Sprinkle zucchini with salt and let stand for about 15 minutes. Wrap in a kitchen towel and squeeze out excess liquid.

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, onion, corn, cornmeal, flours, baking powder, cumin, and salt. Combine thoroughly. Whisk together 1/2 cup buttermilk and the eggs. Add to zucchini mixture. If it is too dry, add more buttermilk. You want it holding together, but not runny like pancake batter.

Heat a large skillet, cast iron is great for this, and add enough oil to coat the bottom (you want to see a little shimmer) over medium heat. Scoop corn cakes, four to a batch, into the skillet (about 1/4 cup or an ice cream scoop). Flatten so they are even (of they are runny, add more flour). Cook until browned on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. You may want to rotate carefully about 2 minutes into this so they are evenly browned. Flip and cook until browned on the other side.

Serve with Salsa or the Ancho Sauce.

fritters with salsa


1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded, and diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

In a medium-sized bowl, add tomatoes and toss with salt. Let sit about 5 minutes while you are chopping the rest of your ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients (I only add about 1/2 of the jalapeno, so you I can adjust the heat). Toss. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving so the flavors marry.

This will not refrigerate well.

fritters with ancho

Ancho Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt – just not the nonfat kind)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients through salt. Taste and add as much lime juice as you like, starting with about 1 teaspoon. The flavors will develop over time, so allow it to rest about 30 minutes before serving.

Happy summer eating.




Market Monday: Broccoli and Kale

garden - pardini

In bloom at one of my favorite gardens are zinnia and hydrangea. The sculptures are by Brian Pardini. The garden is by Patty Baldwin. I will share updates of its blooms as the summer goes on.

Throughout this farm market season, I’ll be posting what I’ve found in season at area farm markets and in my CSA basket from Hunter Farms in Fairview.

Greens continue to be strong – my basket included collard greens, kale and lettuce again this week. In the Sisters of Saint Joseph Neighborhood Network community garden on Parade Street, I can tell you that the same veggies are faring well in the square-foot-garden in the city. I harvested the last of the kale out of my garden this week because it has been under attack by the neighborhood infestation of Japanese beetles.


I enjoy kale and particularly like a kale Caesar salad with leftover grilled chicken. The key to a good kale salad is to massage the kale leaves  with the dressing and allow to sit in a baggie or a bowl in the refrigerator for several hours before serving. This helps integrate the dressing into the kale and soften it.


My favorite Caesar dressing is

1 egg yolk
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 anchovy fillets (don’t worry they get mashed up)
4 tablespoons lemon juice (or more to taste)
1/8 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup neutral oil, like canola
Freshly ground pepper
Dash of hot sauce (optional)

Place egg, garlic, mustard, anchovy, lemon juice, sugar or honey and fish sauce on the cup of an immersion blender or a small blender. Puree until you don’t see any anchovy and all of the ingredients are combined and a pale yellow in color. With motor running, drizzle in the two oils. It will become thick. Taste. You can add a tablespoon or more oil if it is too thick. Mix in ground pepper and hot sauce (optional) to taste.

This makes enough for several salads and will keep well in refrigerator.

For broccoli, typically I just toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it in a 400- to 425-degree oven until it is browned. It is wonderful served alone or with some of that Caesar dressing. I’ve been known to dip the broccoli into the dressing while making dinner … only to find I’m full and there’s no broccoli for dinner.

Oh well.

But not everyone likes their broccoli that way. A big hit at potlucks at my former office is a broccoli salad made with a creamy sweet dressing, cheese, raisins, lots of bacon and sunflower seeds.

broccoli salad

For a recent outdoor lunch in Warren, I followed the recipe from Ocean Spray, only I made a few changes. I cooked the fresh broccoli florets in the microwave for 90 seconds because I’m not a fan of raw broccoli. The quick nuke makes the broccoli bright green and keeps the crunch, and makes it easier to eat (in my opinion). I cut the amount of sugar in half for the dressing and used the low-sugar dried cranberries.

The dressing itself is what I typically use for slaw, so here it is

Creamy Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
Hot sauce, optional, to taste

Mix well. Add to slaw or broccoli salad about an hour before serving. Taste and add salt if needed.

Enjoy summer’s bounty