Got Milk?

I think I’ve mentioned six or seven hundred times that when I was a kid in the 1950s, I loved the television show Captain Kangaroo. The Treasure House. The Banana Man and Grandfather Clock. Other characters with clever names like Bunny Rabbit (a bunny rabbit), Mr. Moose (a moose), Dancing Bear (a dancing bear), and Mr. Green Jeans (I’ll leave that to your imagination).

The Captain and all of his friends had a positive impact on my formative years. To this day I will hear a piece of classical music and I will realize I recognize it from hearing it on Captain Kangaroo. I can’t go to the zoo without singing “Look there Daddy, do you see? There’s a horse in striped pajamas.” I know, Baby Boomers, now that song is stuck in your heads. My grands look at me like I’m nuts. They’re only partially wrong.

searchI’m telling you this because I’ve been thinking about cereal lately. Cereal is something I can eat on my low fiber diet, but not any that are actually healthy. Nope, only the ones that have no fiber. Cereal like Frosted Flakes. Which, of course, makes me think about my childhood, during which I ate cereals like Frosted Flakes, Sugar Smacks, Apple Jacks, and my mother’s one nod to healthy low-sugar cereals, Rice Krispies (which we liberally doused with sugar, thereby rendering them unhealthy). We used to get the snack packs, and we would bicker about who would get which cereal, none of us wanting the lone Corn Flakes, which always got tossed.

As I pondered my childhood cereals, I realized they were all made by Kellogg’s. I know there were other brands of cereals available. I’m certain at any rate that Post cereals were available, but they certainly weren’t on our family’s pantry shelf. Why?

My conclusion? Kellogg’s must have sponsored Captain Kangaroo, and we listened to the captain.

As an aside, while at the grocery store the other day, I noticed that an entire aisle of the supermarket is devoted to all-things-cereal. Not only are there very many more kinds of cereals, but many cereals have a variety of versions. Cheerios, for example. According to Cheerios’ own website (and yes, this cereal has its own website), there are Original, Honey Nut, Multi Grain, Ancient Grains, Honey Nut Medley Crunch, Frosted, Apple Cinnamon, Fruity, Banana Nut, Multi Grain Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Multi Grain Dark Chocolate Crunch, Dulce de Leche, Cinnamon Burst, and Protein Cinnamon Almond. Imagine. Here are a couple of photos I took at our market….


As I further pondered cereal (remember that I’m retired and have lots of time on my hands), I began thinking about the milk we pour over our cereal. And how the milk, in my opinion, is the best part. All sugary and delicious.

Both Bill and I still drink the milk from our cereal. In fact, just like when we were kids, we unapologetically drink it straight from the bowl. Because sugary milk does not require a glass or a spoon. And we are proud of our milk mustaches.

I did a quick survey of the grands and their cereal milk-drinking habits. Here’s what I learned…

Alastair – always
Addie – about half
Dagny – never
Maggie Faith – no milk ever; eats her cereal dry
Joseph and Micah – yes, it’s a house rule that they must drink their milk
Kaiya – never
Mylee – never, or eats it dry
Cole – it hasn’t occurred to him and he spills half of it anyway

Cinnamon Toast Crunch seems to be a favorite amongst many of the grands. It’s a General Mills product, so it wasn’t advertised on Captain Kangaroo. Therefore, it was a no-go for me. However, I recently saw this recipe for a brunch cocktail, and while I’m not a fan of fancy-dancy drinks, I must admit this appealed to me. It’s the fact that you use the cereal milk. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch….

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cocktail

Makes 2 cocktails, with more for virgin drinks

3 c. whole milk
2 c. Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
2 shots Fireball whiskey, or other cinnamon whiskey
2 shots rum cream liqueur

Combine milk and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in a large bowl or pitcher, and let steep for one hour in the refrigerator. Strain, saving the milk and tossing the cereal.

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and add the cinnamon whiskey, rum liqueur and 6 oz. of the milk. Shake and divide between two glasses filled with ice. Use the remaining milk for additional drinks or for non-alcoholic beverages for people who like sweetened milk.

Like me.

Mora Na Maidine Dhuit

Despite my last name (which I married), I don’t have a Celtic bone in my body. They say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but I’m not. Nope. I’m still half Swiss and half Polish. I don’t even wear green despite the danger of being pinched. Kelly green is not in my color wheel.

I don’t mean to sound as if I’m opposed to the Irish. Some of my best friends are of Irish heritage. If I liked beer at all I wouldn’t mind if it was dyed green. I think St. Patrick was one heck of a good saint – one of the best, in fact. I spent 13 years as a “Shamrock” since this was the mascot of St. Bonaventure Elementary School, and Scotus Junior High and High School (though I’ve never known why since St. Bonaventure was Italian and Duns Scotus was Scottish).

But I really do think St. Patrick’s Day is as good an excuse as any to have corned beef and cabbage.

The past couple of years, my sister Bec (who also is not Irish) has had us over for corned beef. This year, however, she is away for the week, watching her beloved Washington Nationals play spring ball in Florida. Go Nats. They’re also not Irish.

So I’m on my own for corned beef and cabbage, which admittedly is not rocket science to prepare. In fact, I recently learned that it isn’t even particularly Irish. According to Wikipedia (which, as you know, is NEVER wrong), they rarely even ate beef in Ireland, preferring pork. It wasn’t until the Irish started immigrating to the United States and found the cost of pork prohibitive that they started eating beef.

Bottom line: corned beef and cabbage is about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs is Italian.

Now you think I’m going to offer a recipe for corned beef and cabbage, but you’re wrong. Just stick your corned beef in the crock pot with some water, the spices, and some carrots, and enjoy your meal eight hours later with a side of braised cabbage.

Nope, I’m going to do you one better. I’m going to offer you a recipe for homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream.

You can thank me later.

ingredients baileys

baileys bottled

Take it up a notch and make some ice cubes out of coffee. Serve your Irish cream over the coffee cubes. Thank you Pinterest.

baileys poured


Now, what do I do with a fifth of Jamison minus 1-2/3 cup? Oh, I know; make some more Irish Cream!

And as they would toast in Ireland….May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent.


One for My Baby (And One More For the Road)

sinatra crosbyNational holidays always make me a little sentimental.

Independence Day makes me feel proud of how our forefathers stood firm in their beliefs about what makes a nation great. We honor all of the people who fought hard to keep us free on Veterans Day, and remember all who died for our country on Memorial Day. We give thanks for all of our blessings on Thanksgiving, celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas.

But what can I say – at least without tearing up – about the holiday we celebrate this very day?

For June 19 is National Martini Day.

A properly prepared martini is heaven on earth. An improperly prepared martini is a travesty. It is as simple as that.

My mom and dad drank martinis. On the rocks with an olive. Gin, not vodka.  For a while they drank Beefeaters; eventually they became Tanqueray drinkers.martini on the rocks But never up in a fancy glass; always on the rocks in a lowball glass.

I remember the day I tasted my first martini. I was well into my 40s, and despite my parents enjoyment of martinis, I had never really had any interest in even trying one. But I went out to a bar with a two colleagues following the conclusion of a conference we had all contributed into putting together. It was a celebration of our success. We each ordered a glass of wine. Somehow, in the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I had never tasted a martini. Before you could say “Bond, James Bond,” I had a gin martini – up, with olives – sitting in front of me, and two pairs of eyes watching my every move. What the hell? Why not?

It was love at first sight and taste. From that very moment, I appreciated the sheer beauty of the crystal clear liquid in an icy-cold glass garnished with pimento-stuffed olives. I also immediately loved – LOVED – the bite of the gin with the very slight pickle-flavor of the olive. Perfection.

I will not set off a martini drinkers’ war by making such bold proclamations as vodka martinis are not martinis, or that you can put chocolate-flavored vodka and Kahlua or apple-flavored vodka in a martini glass but it’s still not a martini. I will not weigh in on the dirty vs. non-dirty martini question. And heaven forbid that I take a public position on shaken or stirred.

I just know how I make my perfect martini.

Fill a metal cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Pour in 2 ounces of Tanqueray gin. (You can pour in more, but heed the words of a friend – one martini is not enough and two is too many) Let it sit for a few minutes to get really cold. In the meantime, take out the stemmed martini glass that you have been chilling in the freezer and pour in some Martini & Rossi dry vermouth. Swirl the vermouth around the glass and then dump the wretched tasting stuff into the sink. Give the shaker a shake shake shake, and pour the chilled gin into the glass which now has just the barest little bit of vermouth, and plop in kris martinian olive or three (remember that an even number of olives in your martini is bad luck). You can fancy it up by using bleu-cheese stuffed olives or jalapeno-stuffed olives, but I prefer the regular ol’ pimento stuffed olives. Take your icy-cold martini, sit down, preferably outdoors where you have a pretty view, and enjoy.

Of course, the choice of Tanqueray is subjective. I have a never-ending argument with my nephew Erik as to whether a great martini is made with Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire. I will drink either, but prefer Tanqueray for the juniper-bite. Bombay is too smooth for my taste.

But here’s the thing: no matter what brand of gin you prefer, your martini will be absolutely ruined by the addition of too much vermouth. It’s as simple as that. You will turn a perfect drink into a foul-tasting catastrophe. You’re better to go without vermouth (which I never hesitate to do) than to use too much.

In the interest of camaraderie on this most important of national holidays, I am going to give you a couple of recipes for pretty drinks that can be served in martini glasses (though I still personally refuse to call them martinis).

Cranberry “Martini”


1.5 oz. vodka

½ oz. orange liqueur

½ oz. dry vermouth

3 oz. cranberry juice

1 c. ice



Combine vodka, orange liqueur, vermouth, cranberry juice, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously to chill. Pour into martini glasses, and serve. Garnish with lime.

martini duo


Limoncello “Martini”


½ oz. limoncello

1 oz. vodka

1 lemon twist

1 c. ice


Combine limoncello, vodka and ice in cocktail shaker. Shake and serve in a martini glass with a lemon twist.


Everywhere Else We’ve Ever Been Ever

1SphinixI’m just trying to scare you with the title to this blog post. I promise I’m not going to regale you with tales of every adventure we have had during our travels, though there have been quite a few. And many of have been very funny and interesting. But I understand you can only tolerate so many stories about us, no matter how amusing our antics were.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we approached the 2008 Big Adventure as though it could possibly have been our last time to travel abroad. It wasn’t. We took another trip in 2010 that was very different from our past trips, but very fun just the same. We cruised the Mediterranean.

Both in 2008 and 2010, we took a two-week Royal Caribbean transatlantic cruise over to Europe in the spring. In March and April, the cruise lines move their big ships from the Caribbean over to the Mediterranean to take advantage of the weather. When they do this, they offer smokin’ deals to sail over one way with them.

In 2010, we elected to take advantage of the smokin’ deal sailing across the Atlantic, but remain on the ship for two more weeks as it began its summer Mediterranean season. As a result, we were in one room on one ship with one room steward for one month. The first two weeks we traveled primarily with Americans; the second two weeks we traveled primarily with Europeans and Asians. Very different kind of atmosphere. Both fun. We never got tired of being on the ship. In many ways it was nice to know where you were going to call home that night. We were getting older and we didn’t mind someone sort of taking care of us.

On the 2010 trip, we visited Naples; Sicily; Rhodes and Athens, Greece; Ephesus,1Pyrimed Turkey; and Cairo, Egypt. It was a wonderful trip. Seeing the pyramids and sailing down the Nile were on my bucket list and I didn’t even know it!

I don’t know if we will get back to Europe again. I hope so. If we don’t, I have no regrets. Man, I have seen a lot of things for a girl from a small farm town in Nebraska.

As I offer my final recipe for a typical Italian item, I want to tell a couple more stories, and then I’ll quit. I promise.

The first time Bill and I were in Rome, we were taken aback by the unexpected enthusiasm Italians have for their food and wine. They know their food is good, and they want to SHARE their love and enthusiasm with you. They won’t be disgusted if you order the wrong wine with certain food. They will laugh and make sure you get the RIGHT wine no matter what you ordered, even if they have to give it to you for free.

We were at dinner that first night in Rome (the night after the overnight train episode and after the audience with the pope episode – it was a long day) at a restaurant we simply stumbled upon. (We didn’t know it yet, but it really is hard to stumble upon a restaurant in Rome that isn’t delicious, especially if you are off the beaten path.) We were seated, looked at the menu, figured out what it said, and placed our order. Bill got a pasta dish with some sort of seafood. When the waiter brought it to the table, he asked the waiter for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The waiter didn’t laugh. He didn’t turn up his nose. He smiled at Bill and said, “No.”

“No?” Bill asked.

“No,” the waiter happily replied.

Bill pointed to the table next to us at which the waiter was generously grating cheese onto the diner’s pasta.

“No cheese on fish,” the waiter said, with such finality that Bill succumbed.

We learned later that the Italians never use Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on seafood, believing the flavor is too sharp and strong to accompany the delicate flavor of fish and seafood. It would overpower.

But here’s the thing. The waiter wasn’t disdainful or rude. He simply wanted Bill to experience the food that the waiter loved so much in the best way. We found that throughout Italy.

It’s why they often give you free stuff. It’s stuff they think you would have ordered had you not been clueless Americans. The waiters will bring you a sample of the area’s specialty because they’re afraid you might not order it yourself. Plus, they just want to be generous. It’s their nature.

During that same trip we were at dinner one night in Rome at a restaurant on the Piazza Navona. It was a warm evening and we were dining outside, as we almost always did. The passagiata had started. We were waiting for our check, but instead of the check, the waiter brought us each a small icy glass of a yellow liqueur. It was limoncello, and believe it or not, we had never seen or tasted it before. I will never forget how good that first sip tasted – icy cold, sweet and tart. Just the thing on a warm summer evening. I was hooked and remain hooked to this day.

Since then we learned that it is fairly common for restaurants in Italy to offer their diners complimentary after-dinner drinks, maybe grappa or sambucca, but often limoncello and often made right there at the restaurant.

Hope I didn’t bore you too much with my reminiscing about our trips. They are precious memories, that’s for sure. I got some funny comments this week, and would love to hear more stories about your travel experiences.

I leave you with this delicious recipe….

Limoncello, by Giada De Laurentislimoncello


10 lemons

1 (750-ml) bottle vodka

3-1/2 c. water

2-1/2 c. sugar


Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away any remaining white pith from the peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-qt. pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least four hours and up to 1 month.

Nana’s Notes: This limoncello recipe is the easiest thing to make. I was unsure how difficult it would be to peel the lemons, but it was very simple using a potato peeler. Sip it from little liqueur glasses, thoroughly chilled, preferably on the Piazza Navona Heavenly. I keep it a lot longer than 1 month in the refrigerator.

Orange You Glad You’re a Bronco Fan?

I had grand plans to blog about my experience making tamales last week, but that must wait because I’m still on Cloud 9 about the Bronco victory! I have a happy victory hangover and can only think about orange and blue today.

Maggie and Bec came over to watch the game with us and I served my orange and blue food. I made my nephew Christopher’s salsa (See my blog post “Hot Stuff” in October for recipe) and served it with orange Dorito Nacho Chips and blue tortilla chips. Very festive. Slices of orange pepper and baby carrots offered a healthy choice. Our Blue Margaritas were delicious as well.

Just a quick word about my orange and blue dessert – Blue Velvet Cupcakes with Orange frosting. They were scrumptious, no doubt about it. They are basically the traditional red velvet cake, but you color it blue instead of red. It is difficult to find food coloring these days in the traditional primary colors. Grocery stores only offered pastel colors, and only in gels. I was able to find royal blue, violet, and orange at Hobby Lobby in the cake decorating section, also gels.

Well, anyone who has worked with royal blue food coloring gel knows – as I learned – the blue color is insidious. It was everywhere – on my hands, on my feet (??????) all over the countertops, in my sink, on my cabinets. It seriously looked like I had sprinkled blue food coloring gel like a priest sprinkles the congregation with holy water. I’m sure I will find it for days to come. Orange seemed less messy (or maybe it just blended).

I will have to come up with a dessert alternative for my big Super Bowl party (to which you are all invited).

Except, what if it was those cupcakes that made the Broncos win? Hmmmmmm. I might have to give one up for the team.

Here is the recipe for Blue Velvet Cupcakes, from (she credits Sprinkle Bakes and One Particular Kitchen)

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

2 c. sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 T. cocoa powder
1 T. royal blue gel food coloring
1 small dab violet gel food coloring
2-1/2 c. cake flour
1 t. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
½ t. baking soda
1 T. vinegar

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ c. butter, softened
1 7-oz. jar marshmallow cream
2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food colorings together to form a paste, and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Pour batter into cupcake papers. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Frosting: Combine ingredients and spread on cupcakes.

Nana’s Notes: The cupcakes are dense, not fluffy, just as is a red velvet cake. Next time I will make my frosting a darker orange! By the way, the cupcakes turn your tongue blue. It goes away. Insidious. What can I say?

United in Orange

United in orange….that’s the apparent catch phrase encompassing all things Broncos in Colorado these days preceding the AFC Conference Championship game tomorrow.

And while I love being here in Arizona during this really nice winter weather, I am sad that I’m missing all of the Broncomania taking place over our state this week. Thank you Peyton, and all of your cohorts who clearly know what “Omaha Omaha” means. We all speculate. In fact, Peyton gave a very funny interview at which he was asked what Omaha Omaha means. With a completely straight face, he gave a roundabout answer that basically said, “Are you serious? Do you really think I’m going to tell you what it means?” Click the link to see the interview.

For my part, we both have Denver Bronco shirts that we will wear on Sunday, we have been happily displaying our little Bronco garden flag in our front yard, and, if possible, we will find a way to fly our great big Bronco flag on Sunday.

I’ve been trying to think about things I can serve to whomever shows up at our front door to watch the game with us. It must be orange and blue. That’s a given.

Here’s a couple of ideas:

Queso Dip with Blue Corn Tortilla Chips (from

4 c. grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1-1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 T. cornstarch
¼ c. milk
1 c. minced onion
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles

Place cheeses in a large bowl, sprinkle with cornstarch, and toss to coat.Transfer cheese mixture to a large saucepan and add milk. Set over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is smooth and melted, about 10-15 minutes.

Stir in onion and chilies with reserved juices until well combined. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips and various raw veggies.

Grilled Chicken Wings (from

2-1/2 lbs. chicken wings
Salt and pepper
2/3 c. Frank’s Hot Pepper Sauce
1/3 c. melted butter
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Season chicken wings. Grill the chicken wings over medium heat for about 10 minutes on each side. In the meantime, melt the butter and mix with hot sauce and cayenne pepper. Dip wings in the sauce and serve with celery and blue cheese dip.

Blue Margarita (from

1-1/2 oz. tequila
1 oz. blue curacao
1 oz. fresh lime juice
Orange slice for garnish
Salt for rimming

Pour all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a margarita glass rimmed with salt. Garnish with an orange slice.

In the meantime, Bill and I (and anyone else watching the game on Sunday with us) will be filled with hope. Go Broncos. Bill and I are United in Orange even though we’re 900 miles away.

Looking Back, Part II

As I said yesterday, though I didn’t win the Nobel Prize for bringing about world peace, I think overall 2013 was a successful year for me. I had a couple of firsts and we experienced an amazing medical triumph.

This past year was the first time that Bill and I spent the entire winter in Arizona. Prior to 2013, we would come and go, perhaps staying for a couple of weeks at a shot (well, except for the time my body decided it needed to spend an entire month in the hospital, but it all turned out okay and that’s a blog post for another time). This past year we decided that since we both hate cold and snow, and since we have half ownership in a house in Arizona, why not bypass the bulk of the cold weather and enjoy the desert! I missed my family in Colorado, but overall it was one of the best decisions we ever made. We enjoyed lovely weather (mostly) and, since when God closes a door He opens a window, I was able to enjoy my brother and sister, nieces and nephews, and many, many great nieces and nephews. That’s why we’re doing it again this year!

March and April are probably the nicest months in the Valley of the Sun (though I have been enjoying the 70 degree days we have been having since we arrived a few days ago). My sister Bec and I did a fair amount of hiking in March 2013. In early April, my sister Jen arrived for a visit, and the three of us went for a walk one nice day. We were wearing flip flops since the decision to walk was last minute, and we were only going to walk a short distance on an asphalt path. At some point, we decided to leave the safe asphalt sidewalk and walk on a little dirt path down into the desert a bit. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. What could possibly go awry? We did indeed enjoy our little deviation as it was very scenic, up until the time that we heard the sound of a rattlesnake that had tired of his winter nap and was out and about earlier than most. Now, the rattlesnake made his characteristic noise in order to warn us of his presence. Upon hearing the warning, one is supposed to quietly back away and leave it far behind you. Unfortunately, there was no quiet backing away as far as I was concerned. I let out a loud yelp and made a swift and noisy exit directly into a bed of cacti. Remember the flip flops? I had cactus needles everywhere in my foot and on my flip flops. Oy vey. Bec, who has gotten me out of series of mishaps over the years, spent the next 15 minutes carefully pulling needles out of my feet as the rattler slithered off. My first rattlesnake sighting.

Undoubtedly the best thing that happened to us in 2013 was Bill’s reaction to a new medication he began taking in November. As of his last appointment two weeks ago, he is showing zero, zip, zilch symptoms of Parkinson’s. The doctor told him she has rarely seen such a quick and thorough reaction to that medication. He isn’t cured, and will need to increase his dose as time goes on, but as of now, we are enjoying his symptom-free life! God is good.

And speaking of good (it’s a terrible segue, I know), my spa experience yesterday was amazing, and another first. I have never been to an all-day spa. The Aji Spa in Chandler is beautiful, and I left feeling relaxed and happy. We checked in, were given our soft and cuddly robes, and enjoyed a 75 minute massage (including a full 20 minutes focusing only on my feet – heaven). We ate a healthy and unbelieveably delicious lunch (who knew it could be both?) along with our “tranquility cocktail.”

We spent the remainder of the day floating in the pool, enjoying the Jacuzzi, and relaxing in the sun enjoying each other’s company. Awesome.

All and all, it was a good day to top off a wonderful year.

Tranquility Cocktail
1 oz. Citron vodka
1 oz. pomegranate liqueur
Cranberry juice
Ginger beer

Pour the vodka and liqueur into a highball glass over ice. Fill to about an inch from the rim, then top off with a splash of ginger beer. Serve with a lime, lemon, or orange slice.

Nana’s Note: The cocktail server told me the ingredients, but not the amounts. Those are a guess. I would guess you could use ginger ale instead of ginger beer. It was so refreshing and delicious!