Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Farmer's Market in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania

Flea Market Season in Aspinwall is in full swing.  Find that treasure and to support your volunteer fire department.

From April through the end of October, weather permitting, the best farmer's market can be found in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania at the AVFD Flea Market.  The Sunday after Easter was the start of another season of the best of the best.  Come to Aspinwall to view some of the best vendors on the flea market trail.


The farmer who is featured here has been a vendor at the flea market for many years.   The young people who sell their vegetables come from a family that has a history of selling door to door in Aspinwall with their fresh cut meats and vegetables.  As a child I remember them coming to our street with their produce.

The family run farm stand has added their refrigerated fresh butchered meat van.  The truck is a full travel trailer and features their home grown and butchered meats.

While the flea market itself has many vendors that display their wares, the main attraction each week is the local produce.  Being at a Port Authority bus stop is another feature that allows many people who don't drive to attend this weekly event and buy items that they can carry home on public transportation.



Early Years in a small location



What is especially good is that all of the produce is professed to be locally grown and the young people who run the stand are from a local farm.  This farming family started out in a smaller location in a corner of the lot.  They have since moved to the center of the lot taking up three prime spots selling their produce from the truck and collapsible tents.  They are in the center of attention each week.


Freedom Farms a family run farm
High quality fruits and vegetables.
The flea market doesn't need any more publicity because it is run by the Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department and has been for many years.  As in any event worthwhile attending, parking is at a premium since the event itself is held in the community's public parking lot and attendees need to find parking on nearby streets.  But the result of your trip is well worth the time it takes to visit the stands of this hard working family.

In Pennsylvania, senior citizens who live on limited means are presented with four gift certificates for fresh vegetables early in the season to be used over the summer months.  Each certificate is worth $5 and must be spend entirely on produce that is locally grown.  Freedom Farms is a local grower and they do accept these certificates in payment of their fruits and vegetables.

I have spent many a Sunday morning picking out just the right zucchini or apples for the recipes that I love to make for my family.  I recommend a trip to the flea market in the coming summer weeks.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sea World Orlando Visit with William Paul Dudas, Jr.

It seems like a million years ago that my family and I went to Orlando for the week.  The entire trip is nothing but a memory now except here where I immortalized it forever.

Bill with his pizza and coca cola
We arrived by Amtrak and as soon as we were settled in our condos, Bill was off in his wheelchair to pool side where they have a restaurant under a canopy where we all met up for a lunch.

Monday and Tuesday, were lazy days by the pool for me, Bill, his sister and great granddaughter.  Two of my grandchildren and their mother went to Disney, where my granddaughter got made up by the Princesses. My other two grandsons went to Universal and had a fun filled day.






The baby had a lot of fun playing in the water spouts with her Mom and Aunt.



On Wednesday, the fun continued for my granddaughter as she went to breakfast with the Princesses.  Bill, his sister's family and I from the Penthouse spent the day at Sea World.

Bill and I in our scooters
The bus leaving the timeshare picked us up at the gatehouse stop.  We all had early admission passes so we were on the 7 am bus.  That was good timing because the walk from the bus stops to the park entrance was at least a couple of city blocks away.  The first thing we did when we entered the park was to trade my son's wheelchair for a scooter and get one for me.  I don't think I would have made the day if I didn't have the scooter.  It was all I could do to walk from the bus to the entrance and back again without one.


The first display you see when you enter the park are the flamingos.

Bill at the Sting Ray Area
Bill was into getting his all day food pass and quickly lost the rest of the family as he rode away from us going lickety split in his scooter.  I think it was intentional and he readily admits that it was.  By that time, being with Mom was not his heart's desire.  I finally caught up with him at the Sting Ray Pool.  We talked for a short time and he was again off he went to anywhere away from Mom.



From there it was off to the Waterfront and the Seaside Fire Inn to get our food passes for the day.  Lost him again after he got his pass.  I looked for him outside but he was gone and I just went my merry way taking pictures as I went.  He later informed me he had gone through the buffet but I didn't see him and went on my way.


My first stop was the Manatee exhibit.  I used to visit the gulf coast of Florida and I remember the manatees.  I love those mammoth sea cows.



A ride over the Overlook Path took me past Dolphin Cove.  I took several photos but I never got one close enough to see the dolphins hanging out over the sides waiting for food.


Then it was a trip through Turtle Trek.  They shooed me through so that that they could get me out fast after the show.  It was at this point that my scooter started running out of battery power and I limped my way back to the entrance to exchange my scooter.  I could have just stopped at any display and they would have sent one to me but I was out to see what I could see.



After I got the new cart I went up around the opposite side from where I had been past the dolphin nursery but they would not come near enough for me in my scooter.  It was a bad day for seeing the dolphins.



From there I met up with Bill who was stretched out sleeping on a bench waiting for the Shamu Show at 11:30.  He joked that a park attendant had stopped to ask if he was ok.  Bill was always a prankster and he delighted in the fact that he was able get someone just by resting on a bench.  

I went on up to the show and got a spot just above the splash zone.  It was so funny watching the handlers wave their hands in a direction and then the whales would flip their tails to send water cascading in that direction onto the crowds.

After the Shamu show was over, I made my way back to the entrance again and bought some souvenirs for people who were taking care of my animals at home.  After I turned in my scooter, I had a long walk back to the bus stop to get the shuttle back to the resort.  It was a very hot muggy day and the bus that was there was going to the water park before he came back to pick up for our resort.  I got on anyways and rode around to the water park and then back to Sea World where I found Brittany and Bill waiting in his wheelchair for the bus ride back to the Hilton property.  

It had been a fun day but I was tired and ready to stay in at the resort for the rest of the day.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Apples Best For Eating Or Cooking

There is truly no season that is best for apples.  In this day and age, the supermarkets carry a vast variety of apples year round.  The season for apples is only determined by what area is growing them at this time of year.

In the Northeast, the Fall is the best time to harvest apples.  The crop is at it's peak and falling off the trees.


Local farmers then gather them into bushels and take them to farmer's markets to sell.  But in today's world you don't have to wait for Fall to get the best variety of apples.  They are all at the supermarket.


There are many varieties to choose from and each has it's own texture and taste.  When I am putting up apples for the winter, I normally bring home a bushel of three different kinds to get a special taste for my winter baking and my applesauce.



My mother loved McIntosh Apples and ate them plain or cut them up into her Waldorf Salad.


The skin on this apple is red and green and it has a tart flavor.  The flesh is white and it ripens in late September.  Because it tends to mush up while baking, this one is not a good one for an apple pie.

My favorite to munching is a Gala which I only recently found in the supermarkets.


This one has a mild and sweet flavor.  I normally cut them up into slices after I core them for snacking.  The peel on this one is a bit tough so I usually peel the slices before I eat them.  This is one of my selections for my three apple mixture in my canning.

The next apple I look for is the granny smith.



This one is an all around apple for eating, baking or just about any recipe.  The flesh on this apple is normally a bit more crisp and it holds up well in recipes.  It is definitely one of my thee for canning.

I have always used a Northern Spy Apple to finish out the canning mix.



This variety has been a long time favorite of mine and is becoming more and more hard to find.  The supermarkets tend to carry different brands rather than waiting for this one.  I like it because it has the flavor that you find in the Gala and the crunch that you find in the Granny Smith.  It is a good one for baking pies and other recipes that call for baking or cooking.

I have tried Cortland Apples



I picked this one up because it looked like a Northern Spy with it's flecked skin.  That was my indicator that it would have good flavor and the crispness I was looking for.  It's texture is better for snaking and that ever popular Waldorf Salad.

This is all I have on apples for this fall.  I have spent many a fall hour coring and peeling apples for my winter canning.  We normally had between 12 and 18 jars of apple slices and an equal amount of my family's favorite apple sauce which I lovingly called mountain sauce because of all the cinnamon I put into it.




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Slow Cooker Corn on the Cob

The Aspinwall VFD Flea Market has started for this season and the Farmers have returned.  I'm not sure if they have corn yet but  I thought you might like to know how to make that delicious corn on the cob without the huge pot of boiling water that can be made for those days when you are grilling steaks outside.

It's easy peasy so they say.  Just line your slow cooker with a spray and then add a quarter cup of water to the bottom.

husked corn in slow cooker
Place your husked corn into the slow cooker.  I suggest cutting the ears in half in order to get more corn into the slow cooker.  Set the temperature to low and let it cook for 2 hours.  See the latest way of husking corn in my article on putting up corn for the winter.

corn wrapped in foil and seasoned
If you prefer you can wrap your ears of corn in foil.  Brush the corn with melted butter and season to taste.

Husking the corn is now easier and less time consuming so why not use modern methods linked here to achieve what took a lot of hard work to achieve.

Which ever method you choose, the end result is a mouth watering summer treat while the corn is fresh out of the fields.  Bon apetit' and as my mother-in-law used to say, "try it -- you'll like it."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Special Occasion Cheesecake - Wedding Day

Anyone who loves cheesecake will get into the swing of things by making some one's Valentine's Day a memorable one.  You Can also use this for wedding showers and wedding tables.

There are so many recipes for good cheesecake that it is hard to pick one.  I have one but due to a family tradition, my daughter has banned me from sharing it. So needless to say, I have to rely on other good recipes for this edition of my blog.

Individual Heart Molded Cheesecakes
Let's start out with perhaps the simplest of cheesecakes and make them individually in a a mold such as the ones made by thebigapplemama.com.  The link takes you to the recipe for making this delicious cheesecake individually for your family and friends.

Heart Shape Cheesecake
Next on our list of cheesecakes is one that is just that a cheesecake made in a heart shaped cake mold and not decorated  With this cheesecake you have the best of all worlds in that you can use the recipe above and leave it up to the individual to use the topping of their choice while enjoying the cheesecake flavor.

Since I can't use my own recipe, I'm suggesting that you use the recipe of the one that I linked you to for the rest of these Valentine's Day offerings.

Cherry Cheesecake


The first is my personal favorite.  It is a cheesecake decorated with cherry pie filling and whipped cream topping.
Strawberry Cheesecake
A good portion of the people prefer strawberry topping with their cheesecake.

Blueberry Mini Cheesecake
Others are partial to blueberries.


My final suggestion takes a little more decorating ability and is made with raspberry jam swirled on top of the cheesecake.

Whether you top these off with whipped cream or not is totally an individual preference.  I vote for with whipped cream.

Try these for that special someone in your life in their favorite flavor.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Party Food: Fruit Salad Trifle

Is the same old Ambrosia Salad getting old?  Have you gotten stale at making the traditional Fruit Salad for your family picnic?

Grandma's Ambrosia Salad
Grandma made her ambrosia salad before they had canned pineapple and she would cut her own from a fresh pineapple.  She would put the cut up fruit and juices over the marshmallows that she had to snip into pieces and put into the refrigerator.  There were no miniature marshmallows in those days.  The next she made her own whipped cream and folded it into the fruit.  If she had some walnuts she would chop them over the mixture.  With the availability of canned pineapple and miniature marshmallows, I use these to make my ambrosia salad.  If I'm feeling adventurous, I use the colored miniature marshmallows.

The traditional fruit salad combines as many different fruits as you like and my favorites are linked to this article.


I have a new and exciting salad that combines all of the above into a fresh idea that is sure to please even the most picky family members.



You start with a large clear serving bowl only to make this colorful and exciting salad more enticing with it's layers of goodies.

2 loaf size prepared pound cakes, cut in 1 to 2 inch cubes
2 packages (3.4 ounces) instant coconut or vanilla pudding
3 cups cold milk
1 pint heavy cream whipped with a little sugar or 1 container (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
4 cups assorted, diced fruits

Directions:
In a large bowl, beat the milk and pudding mixes together until pudding starts to thicken. Fold about 3/4 of the whipped topping into the pudding mixture. In another bowl gently toss fruits together. Layer half of the cake into the bottom pretty clear glass bowl.  Next, spoon half of the pudding mixture on top of the cake. Then, spoon about 1/3 of the fruit on top of the pudding. Then add a layer of your ambrosia salad.  Repeat. Cover trifle, remaining fruit, and whipped cream with plastic and refrigerate at least a few hours before serving. Right before serving spoon remaining whipped cream on top.  You can sprinkle coconut over the top of the mixture but I prefer to leave it off.

This was not originally my recipe but I've added to it to use my own recipes and to come up with a different fruit bowl for our picnics.  Add or subtract what you wish from this rendering but always make sure to include the fruit salad in your summer fun.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cheesy Potatoes Made into a Frittata

This is my son's version of my Cheesy Potato recipe.  He had been taking pieces of the cheesy potatoes I made and mixing it into his morning omelette.  So, what does he do?  He goes out and buys what he thinks should go into this dish and makes his own.  My son was a fanatic when it came to cheese and eggs.  He loved anything made with these two ingredients.

For those who don't know this is an omelette style recipe or Frittata rather than a quiche.  Quiche is when you pour your mixture over a bottom crust and it is an open face pie style.  Quiche is a fancy pie with no upper crust.

Cheesy Potato Omelette
  It's hard to believe that this great guy is no longer here changing my recipes.  I told him what I put into mine and he went out and changed it up by replacing the cream of chicken soup with a can of cream of mushroom soup.  He didn't use any sour cream.  Instead he scrambled a dozen eggs which he did not put into the potato mixture but poured over the top of the prepared potatoes.

Then, to top off his style of cooking, he chopped up a tomato and sprinkled it over the egg mixture.  Into the oven it went and the above casserole is what came out.  To be honest, I was not sure I would like it with the eggs spread over the top and with the tomato bits.  I finally tried it and I have to admit it has it's own flavor.  I still want to try this recipe with the O'Brien style mixture with green pepper and onions but now I have to wait for another occasion that we need a side dish for the meal.  I have found I like working with fresh chives now so that may be the replacement for onions in my next attempt.  We have enjoyed the flavor of cheesy potatoes enough for this year.  We will have to wait for another day when I decide to make something homey like meatloaf.

So for another day, we have given you a choice for your cheesy potato dish.  Again, you can't go wrong when you add to or take away from a recipe, you just have use the "try it -- you'll like it" method.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Managing Money Wisely

My grandfather taught me "A penny saved is a penny earned."

A few years ago I took a money management course in conjunction with refinancing my mortgage.  While they had some interesting things to tell me, through experience I had already put a lot of their tips into practice.

As background, I have been identity thefted and know how cumbersome it is to correct what someone else has attempted to do to your credit worthiness.  Luckily, in my case I caught it early because I put into effect one of the most important ways to use your money wisely.  That is to keep an almost obsessive compulsive check on all of your banking and credit accounts.

In my case, I keep an excel spreadsheet that outlines all of my income, bank accounts and monthly bills.  I check my bank balances every day online and match those against what payments I have scheduled or sent checks and what has cleared my account.  If there is a discrepancy, I make a note of it and check the same a few hours later.  If the discrepancy continues, I then contact the bank or vendor to question what has occurred and to make sure it was something that was legitimate.

On the spreadsheet, I have notated the date a bill is due and by color coding if I have scheduled the payment and with another color code if the bill has cleared my bank.  In another column, I keep track of what the bank shows as my balance and what payments have not yet cleared the bank.  This tells me how much money I have free to spend on other cash expenses such as food, prescriptions or gasoline for the car.

I had been in the habit of using my debit card for cash expenses and getting rewards for using that card.  Recently, my bank terminated the practice of giving rewards for using the debit card but are giving rewards for using my credit card with them.  As a result, I have started moving the cash that I had used to pay bills to my credit card by making payments in advance to cover certain bills.  This way, I am continuing to get the rewards for using my card.

Now here is a tip that I learned at the money management class.  I'm not totally in agreement with using this method but this is what they told me.  When you are paying your mortgage, you are delinquent if you don't pay them on the date the payment is due or prior to that date; but, it is prudent to hold off making that payment until just before the end of your grace period.  Like I said, I don't totally agree with this but as it was explained, this gives you more control over the usage of your money.  You do what you think is prudent.

I have paid off my mortgage due to an unexpected insurance claim.  Because I no longer have a mortgage, I am now able to pay down some of my credit cards with the money that was being used for that payment.

I have taken great care to make sure that my payments are on time and to some extent paid well in advance of my due dates.  This keeps the credit reporting agencies happy and really does have an impact on your credit score and worthiness.  The other toss of the coin, is that you should never owe more than 20% of your credit limit on any account.  It's the old adage, if it appears that you don't need the money, creditors are more apt to loan it to you in bigger abundance.

Another thing to watch is the type of credit cards you are holding.  Try to acquire cards that don't require an annual fee and have the lowest interest rate.  As you use your cards wisely and your credit score climbs, you will be offered cards with better rates.  If you decide to take the offer of a lower rate, pay off the card that has a larger interest rate but don't close the account.  By doing that, you have a larger amount of available credit and still only owe the original amount.

I took out a home equity line of credit that has a much smaller interest rate than any of my credit cards.  With the money, I paid off store cards with high interest rates and a couple of my credit card balances.  With this money, I now pay the monthly payment required by the bank towards my interest and make additional payments against the principal.  As I pay off the amounts I used to pay off each card, I then pay off an additional card with the next highest rate of interest again using that payment money to pay against the Line of Credit.

As you pay off your debts, take the money that you used to pay those bills and put a percentage away each month in an interest bearing account.  Be sure to notate what you are saving this money for so that you are less apt to go on a spending spree.  With the remaining percentage of the previous payment, pay down another creditor until it is paid off.  Each time you pay off a creditor your credit score gets a little better due to your income to credit ratio.

I have now put interest rates next to my creditors name on my spreadsheet.  When I am making a larger payment to pay down my credit card debt, I pay more on the ones that have the highest interest rates first.  On another note, I get invitations from banks every day for additional credit cards with transfer of balance offers.  Some of these also give rewards.  I have found that these normally carry higher interest rates and I shred everything that I get like that before discarding them.

It all boils down to knowing at all times what you have as assets and using them to your best advantage.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

So That's A Purple Finch

As I grow old, I've been blessed with the visions wondrous wild life creatures.

At an annual picnic in Plum Borough, my friend who hosted the picnic had several bird feeders hung back away from the house above a wooded area.

Purple Finch
Of course, my attention was immediately drawn to the creatures that were feeding there.  I was thrilled when I saw a slightly red headed bird that I didn't recognize.

My friends had only recently moved into their new home which they had built for their retirement years.  They told me that they had only hung the feeders that weekend using the feed they had left over from their previous home.

These beautiful finches came immediately and have been feeding there ever since.  She also has hummingbirds but she attracts them with the hibiscus planters she has on her deck.

House Finch

In my yard I get House Finches at my feeders.  They have red feathers on their heads and breasts.  The rest of their feathers resemble sparrows.

This has been a wonderful summer for my love of bird feeding and watching.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sesame Chicken: Bake It Without Shaking It.

A few years back, there was a product called Shake and Bake.  It was the lazy man's way to coat chicken parts for baking in the oven.  It involved pouring the mixture in a bag with wet chicken parts and shaking the bag until the chicken was coated with the crumbs.

Shake N Bake Chicken parts for the oven




Now I ask you, "Is this the way to make good chicken?"  True it is healthier to bake your chicken rather than frying it in oils.

My sister-in-law made a recipe that called for mayonnaise to coat the chicken and a bread crumb mixed with sesame seeds for a shower that she was hosting.  I'm not fond of any chicken except roasted chicken with stuffing, but this recipe for Sesame Chicken was one of the best that I've ever tasted.

Sesame Chicken from the Oven

The breading is moist and flavorful and not dry like you would expect since it was baked on an open sheet pan in the oven.

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli
In this day of thinking heart healthy, this recipe is one that I would recommend for your Sunday dinner menu.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Wedding Cookies - Oatmeal Date or Fig Bars

This little bit of taste treat is another wonderful addition to the wedding cookie table even though I normally only make it for Christmas.

Christmas wouldn't be complete without a batch of my Mom's Oatmeal Date Bars.  These cookies are so easy to make but they don't make a lot of cookies.  The recipe I have makes a 9" square pan of cookies.



There is no reason you can't substitute figs for the dates.  Imagine that!  A substitute for Fig Newtons.  This has always been one of my favorite store-bought cookies.  I could eat a whole tin of Fig Newtons in a sitting.



My love of dates has long been my downfall when it comes to baking cookies.  When I was a child, I raided the dates from the pantry shelf every year.  It's interesting that I tried to get dates earlier in the year but they didn't have them on the shelf at the supermarket.  They had prunes and cranberries but not dates.  This is interesting because I love dates so much. 



If you need a larger amount of cookies for your wedding needs, my suggestion would be to double the recipe if you need a larger amount of cookies.  This would easily make a 13" x 9" pan and give you enough cookies to add to your holiday trays.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wedding Cookies: Biscotti

My father-in-law was a dunker.  He loved dunking his cookies in his coffee to eat them.  Biscotti is one of the cookies that can get hard if you aren't careful.  They can also be spongy and easy to eat.  This is one of the easiest cookies to make and one that is good no matter what time of year.  I know my father-in-law loved these and the honey cookies that get hard if not stored in an airtight container with a slice of apple.

Continuing on with my Cookie stories, I spent a lot of time in the grocery store last year deciding whether to make Orange or Almond Biscotti for Christmas.

Orange Biscotti made right
I was torn between the flavors and since I don't have another orange cookie on the list, I decided to make the Biscotti orange. 

My orange biscotti in a storage container
If you remember, I made Peppermint Biscotti a few years ago but I wasn't happy with the end product.  I think the color turned me off since it came out pink from the ground up peppermint sticks.


Peppermint Biscotti
Everything started out fine as I followed the steps in the recipe.  I used the spatula attachment to mix the margarine, sugar, eggs and orange extract.  Once I was ready for my dry ingredients, I switched over to the dough hook and proceeded to mix in the dry ingredients a little at a time in my Kitchen Aid mixer.  The dry pour attachment is a big help in keeping the dry ingredients from flying out of the mixer.



Another use for having the right tools to do the job.  After using the dough hook it was time to roll out the dough into logs.


Next the logs were put into the oven for 35 minutes.  Following the directions, the logs were then cooled before cutting into slices and putting back into the oven for an additional 15 minutes.

The results was that I misjudged the size of my logs and my Biscotti are the size of what they are named for biscuits.  Next time I need to keep the dough a little wider and not so round.  That's the lesson for today.  Time and trial are the best cooks or bakers.  Even though they taste wonderful, the next time they should turn out more like small cake slices instead of round.


Almond with chocolate

Biscotti with chocolate drizzles
For weddings though you need to be more creative and garnish you biscotti with nuts or even chocolate drizzles.  Almond slivers in an almond biscotti is a favorite for weddings.






Almond Pistachio
Chocolate with Nuts

Almond pistachio is another taste that I like since I'm partial to any baking done with pistachios.  My personal favorite is a chocolate biscotti with nuts.  Today is my birthday and chocolate with nuts would be a great selection for toasting my special day.


That's my baking story for today.  Happy baking.