Friday, April 24, 2015

THE FIDDLEHEADS ARE HERE!

The fiddleheads are popping through the sping earth, and you can almost see them growing before your eyes.  I admit it, I’m a fan of ferns. There is something delicate and eye-catching about these ornamental plants.  Every year we watch them materialize from the flowerbeds around our patio; and every year I purchase four pots of ferns to hang from hooks around the perimeter of it. Ferns are a native plant of Pennsylvania which means they occurred in this region before settlement by Europeans.
 
Why are ferns unique? They are part of a group of species of vascular plants which reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. However, they have stems and leaves. The fiddleheads which first emerge expand into the delicate fronds we all know and recognize.


Fiddleheads are the young, tightly-coiled leaves of the ostrich fern. Although all types of ferns technically have fiddleheads, only those from the ostrich fern are safe for consumption. They are considered a delicacy in areas where the ostrich fern grows natively and are identified by the papery brown scales that cover their coils. Only those who can properly identify the ostrich fern should consider cooking them for consumption.

It’s believed the first ferns appeared in fossil records 360 million years ago in the Devonian period, but many of the current species didn’t appear until roughly 145 million years ago in the early Cretaceous period, after flowering plants came to dominate many environments. Throughout history, ferns have been popular in medicine, art, mythology, landscaping, flower design and more.

With over 900 members, The American Fern Society is one of the largest international fern clubs in the world. It was established in 1893 with the objective of fostering interest in ferns and fern allies.

Monday, April 6, 2015

SPRINGTIME IN PENNSYLVANIA

There is something magical about springtime in Pennsylvania. Like a curious intruder, the season tiptoes into the chilly state, taking time to look around and become familiar with its surroundings. As the axis of the Earth increases its tilt relative to the sun, the days get longer and the nights get shorter.
The gentle, warm sunshine starts the musical, but familiar melody of drip, drip, plop from the gutters and roofs as ice and snow melt. Water races down driveways, streets, and hills and vales, swelling streams and rivers which have a merry song of their own. 

Along those frozen riverbanks, the skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to thrive along with the red buds which take on a flaming glow against the drab gray arms of leafless deciduous scrubs and trees. In yards and flowerbeds, crocus peeps through a blanket of white, and on the south side of buildings, daffodils and grape hyacinths poke through icy flowerbeds and unfurl their yellow and purple blossom. And everywhere the air is clean and crisp, smelling of new growth and rich loamy earth.


Spring is the time when some mammals are starting to mate. If you listen carefully at night, you might hear a fox barking from the woods, coyotes calling to each other, rabbits squealing in the bushes, or the haunting hoots of the barn and horned owls. And every Pennsylvanian recognizes the familiar and welcome sounds of the peepers in the wetlands just before nightfall.

The actual migrating “snow birds” are back in the state along with the locals. The chatter of the resident black-capped chickadees, winter sparrows, and cardinals in the bushes becomes more insistent as they call to their mates and hunt for the perfect place to build a nest while warning others to stay out of their territories. Canada geese wing northward, and soon the wrens and goldfinch will follow. Somewhere up in the pines the first lean robins arrive to shiver and force out a tune while they search the thawing yards for bare spots to find nourishment.

Spring is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. Winter brown lawns fade into hypnotic greens and maples sprout lime-colored new leaves. Forsythia bushes spill out showers of sunny-colored flowers along the roadways. High above, bright blue skies tower over everything—except for the few minutes when glorious sunrises and even more spectacular sunsets paint the sky in ruby reds, golds and plum colors. 

Spring is noisy, colorful, and magical in Pennsylvania. It’s a long-awaited season which lifts and warms the heart and soul upon its arrival—especially after a long, cold, and dreary winter. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

BON APPETITE - A WEEKEND TREAT: Shrimp and Sausage Jambayala

One of my favorite places to visit is New Orleans, and one of my favorite dishes to eat there is jambalaya. There are three different versions of jambalaya: city Creole jambalaya, rural creole jambalaya, and Cajun jambalaya. All of them have slightly different ingredients and different approaches to making them. Some of them do not use tomatoes; many of them use combinations of meat such as shrimp, sausage, ham, or chicken. My favorite is shrimp and andouille sausage.
                   
                 JAMBALAYA

2 (4 ½ ounce) cans deveined small shrimp                                       
1 cup sliced andouille sausage (or diced ham)
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup peeled and chopped onions
1 cup finely cut green peppers
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 ½ cups canned tomatoes
1 ½ cups shrimp liquid and water
1 cup uncooked rice
¼ tsp salt                                                                                            

1 bay leaf
½ tsp thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne
¼ cup finely cut parsley
             
[Optional: 1 cup okra]

Drain shrimp and save liquid. Cook sausage in butter in deep heavy skillet and removed. Cool slightly and cut into slice. Return it to the pan and add onions, green peppers, and garlic. Cook until onions and peppers are tender. Remove garlic and discard. Add tomatoes, shrimp liquid and water, rice and seasonings. Cover skillet. Cook slowly 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir occasionally. Add parsley and shrimp. Heat, but do not boil. Serve at once on toast or with biscuit if desired.

Makes six servings. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

St. Patrick's Day - When Everyone Is Irish!



St. Patrick’s Day in the United States is the only day when everyone is Irish. It’s a time for wearing green, reveling with friends, drinking beer—often also green—eating Irish food, watching parades, and generally celebrating Irish culture, heritage and traditions. 

St. Patrick’s Day was officially declared a Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century in honor of St. Patrick. It was observed by many (Christian) religions because it commemorates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.

Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century to wealthy Roman Christian aristocrats. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland where he spent six years there working as a shepherd.

After making his way back home by escaping to Gaul, now France, Patrick became a priest and studied for fifteen years before returning to Ireland in 432. According to legend, St. Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans.

The first organized observance of St. Patrick’s Day in the British colonies was in 1737 when the Charitable Irish Society of Boston gathered to honor their motherland. During the American Revolution, George Washington, realizing his troops had a morale problem and in acknowledgment of the valiant Irish volunteers who served in his army, issued an order declaring the 17th of March to be a holiday for the troops in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Throughout the years and throughout the United States, cities with Irish populations continued to celebrate the special occasion with parades and festivities. Even the White House celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, starting with President Harry Truman.

So to everyone, whether you are Irish or wannabe Irish, I lift my glass of ale and wish you this Irish blessing:

These things, I warmly wish for you
Someone to love, some work to do,
A bit of o' sun, a bit o' cheer.
And a guardian angel always near.

To your good health—“Slainte.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

WINTER: Albert Camus, French Author, Journalist and Philosopher



“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” ~~Albert Camus, French Author, Journalist, and Philosopher


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Beyond the Sea - by Thomas Love Peacock


Beyond the Sea
 
Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
My heart is gone, far, far from me;                           
And ever on its track will flee
My thoughts, my dreams, beyond the sea.

Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
The swallow wanders fast and free:
Oh, happy bird! were I like thee,
I, too, would fly beyond the sea.

Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
Are kindly hearts and social glee:
But here for me they may not be;
My heart is gone beyond the sea. 

--Thomas Love Peacock

Peacock's Biography

Thomas Love Peacock was born in1785, in Dorset, at Weymouth. He was the son of a glass merchant, who died three years after he was born. He was raised at his grandfather's house in Chertsey, by his mother. Despite the fact that his formal schooling ended before his teens (he never attended a university), it is important to note that he read widely in five languages throughout his lifetime.

When he could no longer support himself without working, he took a job in 1819 with the East India Company. The next year, he married Jane Gryffydh, daughter to a Welsh rector. Peacock's daughter later married George Meredith, also a literary man.

Peacock mixed with many of his contemporary Romantic poets. He often openly criticized them, but this never gave him much trouble. His best known work is his satirical prose. His novels consist chiefly of witty conversation with sparse action. The characters were often burlesque, but subtle imitations of famous men of his day.

In 1866, the hardheaded, tongue-in-cheeked Peacock died in his library at Halliford-on-Thames, after refusing to leave his precious books to burn.


NOTE: This biography is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia Thomas Love Peacock; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

BON APPETITE - A WEEKEND TREAT: Sloppy Joes



I'm sitting here watching the Atlantic Ocean and thinking about what is the easier meal to make for dinner. My favorite has always been one given to me by my husband's sister: Sloppy Joes from a recipe my husband liked at Clearfield High School. So here is the ocean for your enjoyment as well as the recipe.


 
SLOPPY JOES

1 lb hamburger
1 chopped onion
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

1 can tomato juice (5/1/2 small)
1 can tomato soup
1 cup katsup
½- 1 TBSP sugar

1 c.water
¾ c. flour
  -blend like thickening for gravy
Brown first four ingredients.
Add next four ingredients, then
Thicken with flour and water.                                       
Mixture will be thick.
Simmer for half-hour.