Saturday, July 12, 2014

SUMMER GRILLING: had me a blast!

While it might be too hot to cook in the kitchen, summer grilling is never a problem. Now days, with the super grills they sell, you can cook or bake just about anything outdoors. But even if all you have at your disposal is a tabletop charcoal grill, you can still be the top chef in the neighborhood.

People grill pizza and veggies, but the number one food to grill is meat. If that is what you plan to do, you should marinate your meat.

Marinades add flavor and moisture to meat, plus help break down the tissue, making the meat tender. There are countless marinades, but if you examine them, they all contain three basic elements: fat, acid and seasoning. How you want the meat to taste will determine the ingredients you’ll use.

These do three things in a marinade: Help transfer flavors in the meat, helps the meat retain moisture, and helps balance the acidic component. Most common fats used: Cooking oils (canola, vegetable and EVOO), coconut oil and even full fat yogurts.

Like fats, acids do several things to the meat: helps flavor penetrate the meat, breaks down the connective tissues to tenderize it, balances the flavor profile, and can add zing and freshness to the flavor.  Examples of acids in marinades are: citrus juices (lemons, limes, and oranges), wine, vinegar, yogurt and buttermilk.

The most important component in your marinade is the seasoning. With endless possibilities, here are some basics to consider. Use salt and pepper. Salt magnifies other flavors. Try using sea salt or soy sauce. If you want a little heat, think about chili peppers or hot sauce.
Aromatics are also important. Garlic, onions and shallots add the base. Herbs and spices add an extra layer of flavor. Remember to mince or finely chop onions shallots and garlic for better flavor.

If you want more of a citrus flavor without adding more acid, use the zest. And don’t waste the fruit! Slice them and toss into the marinade.

Add a little sweetness. The most common sugar additives are: honey, brown sugar, and molasses. If adding a lot of sugar, remember to grill in a lower heat so the sugar sears the meat, but doesn’t burn causing a bitter flavor.

How much to use? That’s a matter of personal taste, but the ratio of oil to acid is generally 3:1. The seasonings are a matter of taste, too.

Finally, unless you have a tough cut of meat, several hours is sufficient to marinate meat. Some cuts of meat break down faster. You don’t want grilled mush!


GREEK: oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and oregano.

ASIAN: soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic; minced ginger, honey, and if you want heat, red pepper flakes.

TANDOORI:  yogurt, oil, lemon juice, garlic, chopped chilies, fresh cilantro, cumin, curry paste, tomato puree.

STEAK: strong brewed black coffee, Dijon mustard, garlic, shallots, balsamic vinegar, oil, brown sugar, salt, black pepper

FRENCH: oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, tarragon, oregano.

ITALIAN: olive oil, vinegar, garlic, onions, salt and pepper, basil, oregano, dash cloves, sugar, tomato puree, red pepper flakes.

CHICKEN: oil, buttermilk, salt, pepper, parsley, chopped sage.

BBQ: Dr. Pepper/Cola/Root Beer, minced garlic, hot sauce, olive oil, soy sauce, onion, ground black pepper, lemon juice.

Friday, April 11, 2014



     We have slushed and plowed our way through winter. As spring breaks on the horizon, our thoughts turn toward growing greenery outside, specifically the garden.Now is the time for planning.
     In order to enjoy an early crop, as soon as the weather breaks, cool weather seeds like spinach and leaf lettuce can be planted. Stagger the sowing and you’ll have a steady stream of salad greens all summer into fall.
     Other seeds can be started indoors as early as March so they will be strong enough for transplanting outdoors after the last frost. The most common seeds started are peppers and tomatoes.
     If indoor space is not an issue, go to your local home and garden supply store and invest in a good starter soil mix with vermiculite and covered trays. Or buy dry peat pellets. They come in a kit or as refills and must be soaked in water before using. The kits come with clear lids which act as a greenhouse, keeping moisture contained for the seeds to germinate.
     If indoor space is an issue, it’s best to purchase ground ready plants from nurseries or greenhouses.
     Outdoors, like indoors also must be considered for the garden. The most important rule of thumb is NOT to ignore the sowing spacing requirements on the plant id tags. If it says eighteen inches apart, they mean it! When planted, the baby plants may look lost planted eighteen inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. But when full grown, they will fill the space and more.
     Other factors to consider are sunlight, drainage, soil type and fertilizer.
     If you don’t have a spacious yard, consider planting in containers or hanging planters. You’ve seen the infomercials for the upside down tomato planters. They also have the same container for peppers. Do you like strawberries? Get a few plants and make a hanging basket.
     For obvious reasons, planting zucchini or pole beans on a patio just won’t work. For most vegetables, there are dwarf or bush varieties:  Patio Tomatoes, bush beans, and some cucumbers. Leaf lettuce, spinach and green onions do well on patios.
     One of the most creative planters I’ve seen was made out of section of (new and clean) aluminum gutters.  This works ideally attached to a fence or the side of a garage. Chained together and it can hang under a patio roof. Measure the length of gutter you want. Securely attach the end pieces and drill drainage holes. Secure it to the fence or wall and you’re ready to go. If you want several layers, you’ll need a strong, but light weight chain. The shorter the gutter sections, the fewer supports you’ll need. Just be sure they are far enough apart (height wise) for the plants to grow unencumbered.
     Should you make the gutter planter, just remember there are only a couple inches for the roots to grow.  Leaf lettuce, baby spinach and green onions work great.
     Starting the garden takes work, but the payoff is more than worth it when you can harvest a salad from your back yard.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hook, Slice or Sinker


A sportswriter was once asked if he were to compare writing to a sport, which sport would he choose. Without even thinking, he replied, “Golf. Most definitely golf.”

The interviewer asked, “Why golf?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” the sportswriter asked rhetorically. “Golfers golf for the love of the game. Writers write for the love of their craft. Do you understand?”

The interviewer started to nod, but shook his head instead. “No.”

The sportswriter laughed. “Golfing offers personal satisfaction and fulfillment, adventure, discipline, structure, freedom and leisure.”

“But what does all that have to do with writing?”

“You don’t golf, do you?”


“What about miniature golf?”

“Well yeah, I’ve done that.”

“There you go.”


“Come on. It’s almost my tee-time. I’ll walk you through the analogy while I’m waiting for my teammates.”

Together the two men walked out of the Country Club bar and around back towards the golf course. His waiting caddy looked at his watch. “You’re early.”

“We just came back here for some fresh air.”

The caddy nodded and walked off.

The sportswriter gestured, “This is the first step.”

“What’s the first step?”

“Second base.”

“You know, Abbott & Costello Who’s on First, What’s on Second? I’m sorry. OK, I’ll get serious. The first step in golfing is deciding to play. The first step in writing is making a decision to write. Do you agree?”

The interviewer nodded.

“It's a nice summer day and you decide to play miniature golf. You drive to the most popular course and park your car next to all the others. You walk past the vending machines and video games to the back of the arcade where you pay five bucks to get a putter, a colored golf ball and a scorecard. You walk out the back, down past the driving range up to the first hole. The flag says 'par 3', but you don't let that intimidate you. Now you study the hole, picturing in your mind where you want to put the ball and mentally selecting the spot along the side to bank it against. You take a 'walk on the wild side' by not putting the ball in the worn depression, but in a new spot at the edge of the putting green. Your hands start to sweat ever so slightly as you straddle over the ball, legs slightly bent, hands gently wrapped around the faux leather grip of the club. You take a deep breath as you glance to your left, mentally envisioning a dotted line down the worn Astroturf to the crack in the wood beneath the pots of purple petunias. You look down at your golf ball, exhale slowly, and glance down the runway again one last time. You shift your weight slightly, slowly draw back the putter, then you strike the ball. It rolls down the green pathway, striking several inches from the crack causing it to bounce off the course all together. Some may say you hooked the ball while others may say you sliced it. Whatever it’s called, you hit it wrong.”

“I’ve done that.”

“Exactly. Everyone has done that. Now you have to run after the ball and start all over again. This time, the ball hits the crack, ricochets correctly, rolls under the lighthouse, right into the hole. A sinker! A hole in one! Well, a hole in two, but who’s counting? What matters is you made the hole under par and you move on.”

“That’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with writing?”

“As I said earlier, the first step in writing is making a decision to write. Once that decision is made, you choose where you’re going to write.”

“What do you mean where?”

“Do you have an office? Maybe you’re more creative at sunrise and you bring your laptop into the sunroom where the morning rays inspire you. Maybe you prefer the old-fashioned way: using paper and pencil. Maybe you jot notes while riding the train or subway or talk into a micro-cassette recorder while you’re walking the dog. The key is to write where and how it works for you. That’s your putter, your ball and your scorecard. Are you with me so far?”


“Staring at a blank page or monitor can be overwhelming. You know—like a ‘par 3’? But you go on. Maybe you’re the kind of writer who has the whole idea in his head. You know exactly how the story will go; exactly what will happen. You just need to coax it out. You start writing, but a bit of new dialog pops into your mind. You like it and suddenly, not only do the new words come to life, your story now veers off on a tangent that never existed before. You hooked or sliced the ball!”

“I’ve done that too.”

“Sure. You’re not alone. Do you like the new plotline? If you don’t, just hit that delete button and start all over again. If you do, keep going. Before you know it, your story is done. A hole in one!”

“That makes sense. I never looked at writing that way. But what about adventure, freedom and leisure?”

“Personal satisfaction and fulfillment in golf is completing the game to the best of your ability. In writing it’s completing the piece from start to finish. Golf can be very leisurely—not to be rushed. It’s more than the game. It’s enjoying the weather, the walk, the companionship. Writing can be time consuming, but unless you’re under a deadline, you work at a speed comfortable to you. When you hit a golf ball, the slightest turn of the club can change its flight and direction. That’s why body position and posture is so important. Writing is the same way. You may know where a story is going, but often it will surprise you and take on a life of its own. You not only need discipline to keep a story on track, but the discipline to keep working even if you think you have nothing to say.”

The interviewer nodded again. “I’ve had writer’s block in the past. It’s not fun.”

“No, it isn’t, but you persevere. My favorite things about golf are that it’s both an adventure and an escape. You’re at the mercy of the weather and the condition of the course. Writing allows you to work on a variety of subjects. You can expand you knowledge base and challenge yourself by writing is styles different from the norm. Writing is a learning experience, and like golf, you can always improve your game. And, it’s an escape--an escape from the daily routine and a chance to get out in the fresh air. Writing is an escape because you can submerge yourself in your story. You can be whatever or whoever you want to be: a spy, the president, a writer, a chef, a soldier, a robot, a boxer, even a golfer.”

“Can I quote you on that?”

“You can have every word. There are plenty more where those came from.”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Memorable Easter Sunday

This being Easter weekend, made me remember back to one of my favorite Easters…

A specific Easter Sunday holds a special place in my heart. It was April 18, 1976 and I was fortunate to have been in New York City that weekend. It wasn't a planned trip. Oh no, it was quite the opposite.

I remember I was ironing clothes. Yes, in those days clothes were still ironed and starched! Anyway, there I was ironing away when one of my BFFs stopped in for a visit. He sat on the couch and said... "I know you're going to hate me, but..."

I stopped ironing because this sounded too serious to listen with one ear. "Say what?"

Joe started again. "I know you're going to hate me, but I'm going to New York City this weekend."

"Are you crazy?" I asked him. "It's a holiday weekend. It's going to be crazy trying to make arrangements."

"I know, but the Tony Awards are there this Sunday and I want to go."

I discussed all the reasons not to go and he countered with all the reasons to go. Long story short, we both went.

Anyone that knows me knows that NYC is my favorite city in the whole world. It's dynamic. It's alive. It has Broadway and Central Park. It’s a great place to visit. Jeez, what more could you ask for?

We left Saturday evening on the bus from Pittsburgh, rode all night and arrived Sunday morning. I always liked the view of Manhattan as we rode through Jersey towards the tunnels. The skyline came into sight and as we continued south, the Empire State Building stood magnificently above all the rest. A short time later, the twin towers of The World Trade Center came into view. I got goose bumps every time I saw those buildings.

We left Port Authority and stopped in a corner deli for a bagel piled high with cream cheese before checking in and leaving our carry bag at the hotel. Then we went off to play!

Our first stop was Shubert Alley. That narrow street was already abuzz with news trucks and technicians laying the cables for the evening's extravaganza.

We hung around for a bit, but it was too early for the stars to arrive. We strolled up 7th Avenue to Central Park. We walked under Dipway Arch and headed for Heckscher Playground. I loved that slide. How easy it was to forget you're an adult when surrounded by all that stone and grass. After playing there, we headed for the Carousal, then found a nice outcropping of basalt to sit for a while and absorb the atmosphere. Afterwards, we wandered to our other favorite haunts (not necessarily in order):  Bethesda Fountain, Cleopatra's Needle, The Boathouse, Wolman's Rink, The Reservoir, and the Pond and emerged at the Grand Army Plaza at 5th and CP South. The red tulips were in full bloom. By then, the heat was getting bad. Ultimately it hit 105 degrees! Someone on the news the next day commented that the heat generated by all the air conditioners running in the city that day could boil water filling the astrodome in Texas. I often wondered who compiled statistics like that.
We continued down 5th Avenue.
I don’t know if it is the same today, but in 1976, 5th Avenue was blocked at two cross streets creating a traffic-fee area for the Easter parade. People strolled down the Avenue in their Sunday finest, some were in costume, and a lot were tourists. I remember someone dressed as the Statue of Liberty complete with a foam crown. She wore twelve inch platform shoes shaped like the base of Lady Liberty and had robes draped over her shoulder. What I remember the most was her green make-up that was melting and running down her face.
We grabbed a strawberry Julius and a hot dog from the Orange Julius stand on the corner and headed back to Shubert Alley.
A larger crowd had gathered, but with a little perseverance, a lot of patience and a little nudging, we worked our way to the front. It was only mid afternoon, but celebrities were already arriving for the evening’s big event. We saw Cloris Leachman, posed for pictures, and Marlo Thomas, Hal Linden and Richard Burton, who slipped by.
I know we left our imprints in Shubert Alley that day. Because of the extreme heat, the asphalt softened and our shoe prints were left there for all time. Or at least until they paved it over.
We stayed several hours, then after a little more enjoying the city, we each bought an extra large strawberry Julius and 3 single cuts of genuine New York pepperoni pizza for supper and headed back to my room at the Taft Hotel on 7th Avenue. After eating, we sat back and enjoyed the Tony’s. It was three hours of fantastic music and bits of the best plays and musicals of the season.
After the show, I was ready to head back to Shubert Alley like we planned. Joe, however, was tired and went to his room. So there I am sitting in a hotel room in NYC barely ten blocks from Shubert Alley and all those people. I called Joe and told him that’s were I was going. He said be careful and to call when I got back.
I grabbed my camera and headed back down the Avenue.
Oh my God. There were no other words to describe it. Shubert Alley was a virtual who’s who. Despite the hour, there were so many people. The entire cast from Pacific Overtures was there in costume mingling with everyone. I spotted Carole Bishop, who won a Tony for A Chorus Line. I waited to talk to Donna McKechnie, who won Best Actress in a musical, for her role as Cassie in A Chorus Line.
I can’t remember everyone I got to talk to, but I took more pictures. As time went on, the crowd started to disperse. On their way out to cast parties, I saw Marvin Hamlisch and Celeste Holm. Finally, someone from the theater came out and said all dressing room keys had been turned in and everyone had gone to the after-show party at Sardi's. Almost everyone left at that point. I was going to leave too, since I needed to head north, but that little voice said to wait.
Sure enough, a tall woman wearing a white flowing gown hurried out the stage door towards a waiting limo. I followed, having one of those mental arguments: That’s Diana Rigg… No it’s not... Yes it is… No it’s not. All the room keys had been turned in.
But it was Diana Rigg and I got to talk to her again. She was always a nice lady. I took a photo—with her permission—and watched as the limo drove away.
I was happy. It was worth walking back down to Shubert Alley. I called Joe when I got back to the hotel. Despite all the walking that day, it was hard falling asleep.
The next morning, we were back on the bus heading home. I was so glad Joe didn’t listen to me to stay home but instead was able to convince me to go with him. What a trip; what a memory.
Wishing all of you a blessed and Happy Easter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Christmas Quiz

By now, everyone is caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season: shopping, baking, traveling… Whatever the time, writers still do what we do best. We write.

As writers, we are all about the words. If what we’ve penned is too hard or confusing to understand, our readers will by-pass us. The quiz below is a prime example of how we can over-write. Decipher the expanded Christmas carols and match them to their correct, more common titles.

Better yet, pour yourself a glass of eggnog and share the quiz with family and friends. I did NOT include the answers. If you want them, please email me.


1. Oh, member of the round table with missing areas

2. Boulder of the tinkling metal spheres

3. Vehicular homicide was committed on Dad's mom by a precipitous

4. Wanted in December: top forward

5. The apartment of two psychiatrists

6. The lad is a diminutive percussionist

7. Sir Lancelot with laryngitis

8. Decorate the entryways

9. Cup-shaped instruments fashioned of a whitish metallic element

10. Oh small Israel urban center

11. Far off in a haybin

12. We are Kong, Lear, and Nat Cole

13. Duodecimal enumeration of the passage of the yuletide season

14. Leave and broadcast from an elevation

15. Our fervent hope is that you thoroughly enjoy your yuletide season

16. Listen, the winged heavenly messengers are proclaiming tunefully

17. As the guardians of the woolly animals protected their charges in the dark hours

18. I beheld a trio of nautical vessels moving in this direction

19. Jubilation to the entire terrestrial globe

20. Do you perceive the same vibrations which stimulate my auditory sense organ?

21. A joyful song of reverence relative to hollow metallic vessels which vibrate and bring forth a ringing sound when struck

22. Parent was observed osculating a red-coated unshaven teamster

23. May the Deity bestow an absence of fatigue to mild male humans

24. Rose-colored uncouth dolf is aware of the nature of precipitation, darling


a. All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth

b. Away in a Manger

c. Carol of the Bells

d. Deck the Halls

e. Do You Hear What I Hear?

f. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

g. Go Tell It on the Mountain

h. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

i. Hark the Herald Angels Sing

j. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

k. I Saw Three Ships

l. Jingle Bell Rock

m. Joy to the World

n. Little Drummer Boy

o. Oh Holy Night

p. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

q. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

r. Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night

s. Silent Night

t. Silver Bells

u. The Nutcracker Suite

v. The Twelve Days of Christmas

w. We Three Kings

x. We Wish You a Merry Christmas