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April 2007

March 2007

Pedicures Important Police Tool

Pedicure_2 Just as I suspected, pedicures are not just a self-indulgent pampering experience. Soaking your feet in warm water, having someone cut your toe nails, remove your nasty calluses, massage your aching pups and paint your toes a pretty color is actually an important community service.

Witness the critical clue police came across when two human legs washed up (separately) on the Long Island shore this week. Both feet had pretty pink polish on the toes. Now, there could be a lot of random legs afloat around here, and if a third leg comes ashore with pink polish, the whole connection theory is shot. Still,  Mamaroneck detectives feel pretty confident that the two legs came from the same woman.

Look, this is a gruesome story. But I still maintain that we should all be doing what we can and visit the nail salon regularly. If any of us meets such a horrible fate, let's leave not only clues behind,  but also pretty feet.


Dem Bones

Skeleton_2 It's getting scary around here, not to mention disgusting. First, we've got the skeleton that was discovered earlier this week in the woods behind Bloomingdales in White Plains. So far, the police have only established that the person was a woman in her 70s. They are not yet entertaining my theory that she perished while waiting for help during a sale in the shoe department.

Meanwhile, yesterday a severed human leg washed up on the a beach in the Long Island Sound. Police believe the leg was connected -  or at least once connected - to the torso that was discovered a few weeks ago on a Mamaroneck Beach. The leg landed on the estate of James Dolan, the CEO of Cablevision Systems Corp., chairman of Madison Square Garden and owner of the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. I would at this point start speculating about getting a leg up in the play-offs, but that would be in very poor taste, indeed.


Sun-dried Tomato Dip

Vegetabledip My book group loves to eat almost as much as we love to read books. We meet in the evening and have pot luck dinners. Last night, I brought an appetizer - sun-dried tomato dip, surrounding by vegetables. The recipe came from Ina Garten's "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook," a real treasure trove of easy, pretty dishes.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (about 8 tomatoes)
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
10 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

Puree the chopped tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the scallions and pulse twice. Serve at room temperature.

This sounds simple and should have been, except that my trusty A & P did not have any sun-dried tomatoes in oil. They did have sun-dried tomatoes in a plastic bag, so I bought those, and soaked them in olive oil for a few hours before starting to make the dip. Wouldn't you think that would do the trick? Well, it didn't. I could not chop those little buggers to save my life, and after a few very sundried tomatoes went skittering off the chopping board after a few whacks of the knife, and with the memory of my kitchen accident close at hand, I said to hell with it, and just threw the whole tomatoes and everything else into the Cuisinart at once. It worked out fine.

The picture of the dip makes the surrounding vegetables look really sinister for some reason. I think it's just the lighting. Remember those extra asparagus from the penne pasta and asparagus dish? They were served with the dip, along with some pretty purple cauliflower, sugar snap peas and carrots.


Flower Power

Flowerstand_2 I told you the Bedford Planning Board was tough. Now they're cracking down on flowers. The Katonah Village Market has a little flower display in front of the store. Pretty offensive, right? Well, the board sees those flowers as an encroachment on the town right-of-way. Last year, the store was ticketed for "impinging" on town property, a.k.a. the sidewalk. Currently the board is discussing their policy. It is certainly a comfort to know that the town is managing its priorities in these dangerous times and  hard at work keeping those renegade flowers in line.


It's A Bad Thing

Marthastewart Not all of Martha Stewart's neighbors are happy about her plans to trademark the name "Katonah" for her new line of furniture and paints. The Katonah Village Improvement Society voted yesterday to authorize $200 toward legal costs to fight the domestic diva. $200? That ought to buy about 30 minutes of top legal talent. Since revenues for Martha Stewart Living rose to $97.04 million this year, I'm guessing she can fight back.

Last time Martha met with the neighbors over this issue, she brought her signature chocolate chip cookies as a sign of good will. Do you get the sense that she's not taking their opposition too seriously?  She has risen to new heights in pettiness though. She recently canceled her subscription to the Bedford Record-Review, because she didn't like their coverage of the issue. Now that's playing hardball.


Girl Scouts Again

Fullsash_2

Several people who read my column in yesterday's NY Times on the Girl Scout's 95th birthday told me that were surprised that I had kept my sash. God knows why I still have it, though I am kind of pack-rat by nature. Anyway, I got it out yesterday to take a good look at it. I earned 10 badges and if there are any old (and you know by "old" I mean "former") Girl Scouts out there who can help me interpret some of them, I would be grateful.

Sashbadges

This is what is confusing me -there is one badge (top row to the right) that looks like an outdoor bar-b-que grill. Then (third row to the right) there is another depicting a big, black pot hanging from a stick, over what appears to be a camp fire. Did the Girl Scouts award us once for grilling burgers in the backyard, and a second time for cooking on an open hearth? Then there's the steaming coffee cup patch, which I know was the hostess badge. Did this involve cooking too? Indoor cooking? Also, what was the treasure chest patch (last row left) for? Pirate proficiency?


Lemon Pepper Chicken

Lemonpepperchicken This is so easy and so tasty!

First, a word about chicken thighs, the neglected pick-of-the-chick. I don't get why people are so enamored of boneless chicken breasts. They tend to be pretty tasteless and unless you're really careful, it's difficult to keep them tender. Not so the wonderful chicken thigh, which has a nice, meaty taste and stands up to all sorts of cooking punishment. Plus, they are almost always well-priced.

So take six chicken thighs. (One more chicken thought - I only buy Bell & Evans or Murray's, if only for the simple reason that nearly all other brands, Purdue especially, are a very weird color, no doubt due to mass quantities of hormones.) Anyway, rinse the chicken, pat dry, and put in a baking dish.

Now melt about two tablespoons of butter. Into this, squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Wait - before you squeeze the lemon, grate the lemon peel. You will need this in a minute, and you can't grate the lemon once you've squeezed it. Add about a tablespoon of the grated lemon zest into the butter-lemon juice mixture.

Somewhere in the house, you should have some lemon/pepper seasoning. If not, it's worth picking some up, as it comes in handy in all sorts of dishes. Add a few good shakes of the lemon pepper seasoning to the butter-lemon mixture.

Baste the chicken thighs with this marinade. Now - this sounds odd, but it really makes the dish - sprinkle the chicken pieces with about a tablespoon of brown sugar. That's one tablespoon for the whole dish - not one per piece! Then take the other half of the lemon that you didn't use, slice it very thinly, and put a slice on each piece.

Bake about one hour at 350.

Pennewasparague I served this with Penne with Asparagus.

Steam a bunch of asparagus. Take about 10 of the stalks and cut into bite size pieces. (Save the rest for whatever - salads, asparagus vinaigrette, etc.)

Cook penne according to box instructions.

Remember that lemon-artichoke pesto I told you about, the one in the smoked salmon pasta recipe,that you can get at the A & P?  If you have it, toss the cooked pasta in about half a container of that pesto, and add the asparagus and some parmigiana cheese. If you don't have the pre-made pesto, this dish is perfectly good simply tossed in a little olive oil, again with the parmigiana cheese and fresh pepper.

My secret plan was to get a second meal out of this pasta by adding some prosciutto and calling it main course. But the left-over situation is a bit meager, so the jury is out on that one.


Girl Scouts' 95th

Girl Scouts for the New Century

25wecol600

By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
Published: March 25, 2007
Briarcliff

WHAT would Juliette Low have made of this, the kickoff celebration for the 95th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, the organization she founded? Certainly, she would have recognized the tree-planting ceremony, because from the outset, the Girl Scouts have had a strong outdoors orientation. Low would also have been familiar with groups of girls singing together.

But what of the photo shoot to record the event for a magazine, complete with professional lighting, backdrops and even a stylist to touch up make-up and tuck errant hair back in place on Kathy Cloninger, chief executive of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.? What of the video crew documenting the occasion? Never mind how Low would wrap her mind around the Girl Scout Web site, with its snazzy “girlsgotech” pages encouraging scouts to “set your sights on math, science and technology.”

I suspect that Juliette, while having to adjust to the trappings of 21st-century life, would recognize the group she started quite well. After all, this was a woman who, in the first Girl Scout handbook, offered girls critical skills like how to stop a runaway horse and how to tie up a burglar with eight inches of cord.

In fact, the Girl Scouts have always been about teaching girls to be self-reliant and to develop their leadership skills. Or as Low put it in the foreword of that first handbook: “If character training and learning citizenship are necessary for boys, how much more important is it that these principles should be instilled into the minds of girls who are destined to be the mothers and guides of the next generation.”

She started the first troop of 12 girls in Savannah, Ga., on March 12, 1912. Today there are 3 million Girl Scouts and 50 million alumnae, among them Sandra Day O’Connor, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Katie Couric and Drew Gilpin Faust, the first woman to become president of Harvard.

Badges available for girls from 1913 to 1938 included “Flyer” (“Pass tests in knowledge of air currents, weather lore. Must have made an aeroplane to fly 25 yards and have some knowledge of engines”); “Telegrapher” (“Send 22 words per minute using a sounder and American Morse code. Receive 25 words per minute and write out messages in longhand”); and “Electrician” (“Learn simple battery connections and fusions. Know how to rescue and resuscitate someone who has been electrocuted. Understand about non-conducting substances and insulation”).

“Juliette was way ahead of her time,” Ms. Cloninger said. “She had a vision of girls as active citizens even before women had the opportunity to vote.”

Low was also an early environmentalist. The core of the Girl Scout program in the early 1900s was teaching girls to live in and take care of the outdoors. Ms. Cloninger said it was particularly fitting to kick off the anniversary celebration in Westchester at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff, a Girl Scout property on 400 acres where women have been gathering since 1926, and which is known as “the University in the Woods.”

While the message of Girl Scouting may not have changed, the package in which it is delivered has. Several years ago, in an effort to retain teenagers, the Girl Scouts revamped categories once called Cadettes and Seniors, and now have a program called Studio 2B.

For teenagers, charms have replaced badges, and the skills girls master have breezy, contemporary-sounding names, but are as substantial and timely as the “Telegrapher” badge once was. For instance, in “Got Money?” girls learn about savings and investing, “Makin’ Waves” covers marine biology and “Take Charge” deals with issues of violence and sexual assault.

Younger girls can still earn badges like “Computer Fun,” “Science Discovery” and “Your Best Defense,” a self-defense patch that is decorated with 911, a cellphone and a small figure doing martial arts.

I suspect I was a Girl Scout during a time-warp era, because the badges I earned in the 1960s included “Toymaker” (which has never proved very useful), “Dabbler” (perhaps I couldn’t do any one thing very well) and “Hostess” (absolutely prescient, given how much I cook). But the fact that I still have my sash shows that the organization was meaningful to me. Certainly I steered my own daughter toward scouting, and she did it all — from camping to cookie sales. She saved her sash, too.

This year, the Girl Scouts removed trans fat from their cookies. The cookie tradition dates back to 1917, when a troop in Muskogee, Okla., baked some as a service project. I’m not surprised the Girl Scouts changed the recipe to stay current with the times. Juliette wouldn’t have had it any other way.


Bring 'Em On

Popeye This morning I was reading about the House of Representatives voting toGump_2 bring most American troops home from Iraq by next year, when I came across a curious quote. Congressman Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who opposed the measure, said, "What does throwing money at Bubba Gump, Popeye the Sailor man and Mr. Peanut have to do with winning a war? Nothing."

Mrpeanut What really confused me about this statement was Mr. Peanut's military status. Obviously, Bubba Gump was in the Army, and Popeye was Navy. This left the Air Force for Mr. Peanut, but it seemed so unlikely. I mean, he's got that monocle, so how could he ever have passed  the vision test?

Well, it just goes to show you that you shouldn't read the national news until you have had  at least two cups of coffee. Upon reexamination, it turns out the Rep. Johnson was referring to some domestic spending that had gotten tucked into the Iraq bill, add-ons that would benefit spinach growers, shrimp fisherman and peanut storage, among others.

To quote the great Rosannadannandanna, "Never mind."


Your Tax Dollars at Work

Drunk This is one of my favorite headlines ever, which ran in yesterday's (3/23) Journal News: "Officers Train on Actual Drunken People". Actual drunken people? Tell me more! Well, it turns out that County Police Officer Stuart Smith thought it would be a great idea to train police recruits on real drunks. The officers have to learn how to conduct sobriety tests, and where's the fun in asking sober people to walk a straight line?

So starting at around 4:30 in the afternoon, a police officer started pouring cocktails for the brave souls who volunteered for this mission. It's unclear what was served, though there was mention of beer, wine and at least three cranberry-vodka cocktails. Just to add a bit of ambiance, the County Police also pumped in some music for the event. After people started getting loaded, the recruits practiced eye-coordination tests and testing blood alcohol levels.

No word on how much this cost the tax payers, (at least the Journal News reporter didn't seem to ask) but I know what you are really wondering, and the answer is - no, they are not looking for any more volunteers.


Steak and Potatoes Again

Anothersteakdinner The Weatherman is still on the mountain, but the boy was home. I don't know if I'll serve as much red meat when he is off to college next year, but right now he is still a growing, and instinct tells me to keep giving this boy beef.

You know I am not inspired when it comes to steak (this one boneless sirloin) but I still say you can't beat the standard - rub with chopped garlic, sprinkle with pepper and either broil or grill.

This time the potatoes were baked, and that weird green dot you see on top of the (low-fat, I swear) sour cream is a tiny bit of green mint chutney that I picked up at a Farmers Market. It sounds strange, but it has a nice, spicy bite. It is made with cilantro, as well as mint, and it is also good mixed with plain yogurt and served with lamb.

The broccoli was steamed, and then tossed into a vinaigrette made by whisking fresh lemon juice, olive oil, ground pepper and just a pinch of sugar.


Whipping Bedford Into Shape

Chemerodungeon The  Bedford zoning board is notoriously tough. Want to extend your barn to add a few stalls for the horses? No dice. A new deck? Not likely. I remember when Rippowam-Cisqua school wanted to open a new campus in Bedford, and after endless negotiations and sinking millions into the project, they never got approval to lay a brick.

So it shouldn't be surprising that the town intends to inflict some punishment (sorry) on Sandra Chemero, the infamous dominatrix who police say was operating a little business known as "The Sovereign Estate" on her rental property. Whips, chains, leather straps, spanking paddles, scary looking chairs - let's just say they wouldn't be included in neighbor Martha Stewart's "Katonah Collection."

DominatrixMs. Chemero was in Bedford Town Court earlier this month to answer charges of prostitution and criminal possession of a weapon. She pleaded not guilty. But then the town really threw the book at her. Town building inspector Richard Megna told the town justice, "Upon information, Ms. Chemero was found to have a home occupation without a special permit at her property."

Sandra, start packing your bags. You might be able to beat the prostitution and weapons charges, but operating a business in your home is going just a little too far in Bedford. You, however, might not have to go too far. The Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women is in the neighborhood. Believe me, its zoned for business.


Girl's Night Off

Sushidinner_2

Ah. The Weatherman is in parts north. The boy was at Madison Square Garden watching his umpteenth Rangers game. Which left me on my own. Heaven. Here is the recipe for last night's dinner:



-Study takeout menu from Ace, an excellent restaurant in Thornwood, which specializes in what it calls French-Asian cuisine.

-Dial phone number. Place order.

-Pick up.

-Pour nice chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

-Stick Netflix movie in DVD player.

-Enjoy.

Scoop_2 A note on the movie. I had rented "Scoop" which stars Scarlett Johansson and Woody Allen. She plays a journalism student and he is a magician. They stumble on a scoop about a murder. About this movie, I will say this. Scarlett Johansson pursues two stories, and has sex with both sources. As a reporter myself, I briefly considered this as a career move, but couldn't picture sleeping with the president of the League of Women Voters, who I interviewed yesterday, or last week's Girl Scouts. Next week I am interviewing some guidance counselors, so maybe my luck will change.

Between Scarlett's vamping and Woody Allen's usual stammering and whining, I ended up playing online Boggle on my laptop for half the movie. The only redeeming thing was that Woody didn't cast himself as Scarlett's lover. And that's no small redemption.


Face Book 101

Make New Friends Online, and You Won’t Start College Friendless

Education190

By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
Published: March 21, 2007
Monique Yin is months from starting her freshman year at New York University, but she has already chatted online with hundreds of classmates and met many of them, too.

As soon as Miss Yin, a 17-year-old high school senior from North Haven, Conn., received her acceptance letter in November through early decision, she logged onto Facebook, the social networking site, and created the group “NYU 2011.” She gave it this simple description: “Join this group if you are attending NYU next fall.”

So far, the group has more than 650 members — incoming freshman from as far away as Belgium, Singapore and China, and ones from Long Island and Texas. By December, when Miss Yin attended a university orientation, classmates recognized her as the creator of the group. By February, 60 people from the group met in Washington Square Park. Later, some went ice-skating together; others shopped in Greenwich Village. This month, smaller groups have met in California and Philadelphia.

Facebook and other social networks like MySpace have transformed the social lives of teenagers in many ways, and that includes how they make the transition from high school to college. Hundreds of colleges have their own Class of 2011 groups on Facebook. They are generally not formally affiliated with the universities and are begun by students who want to connect with classmates months before they set foot on campus.

Facebook was originally available only to college students, and expanded to include high school students in September 2005. As soon as the first college acceptances began rolling in that fall, the first future college class groups appeared on Facebook.

Early decision candidates usually create the groups, and others join later as they are accepted. Despite the variety of colleges, the conversational subjects are universal. Typical early postings are laced with excitement about college acceptances “I got in!” and “I’m so excited.” Eventually, practical matters dominate — what dormitories to live in, and finding roommates. Discussions about favorite bands and sports teams also proliferate.

Large universities inspire more groups. Cornell, for instance, has 10 groups for the Class of 2011, including ones for the Hotel School, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Cornell 2011 Athletes. There are also “Cornell 2011 Anti-Freshman 15,” a reference to the common freshman weight gain (“I’m just scared that all my clothes will be too small and completely useless by Christmas”) and the group for those who missed on early decision (“What are you doing to get in?”).

Mostly though, the talk is about personal, if virtual, connection. Ashley Hollier, a senior at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, La., will attend Tulane University in the fall. She and five other students who met through a Tulane 2011 group arranged to visit New Orleans at the same time. After taking a tour together, they went out to dinner.

“It was six people who had never met each other — two from Massachusetts, two from Louisiana and two New York kids,” Miss Hollier said. “Sitting at the table we felt like old friends.”

She knows a freshman at Tulane, who told her it was good she had made online connections ahead of time.

“When she first got there,” Miss Hollier said, “she didn’t have to worry, ‘Who am I going to sit with at lunch?’ because she already had familiar faces from Facebook.”

Not everyone is enthusiastic about meeting future classmates online.

“Basically it just provides people with an opportunity to brag about their grades or talk about how they go out and party,” said Adam Muchnick, a senior at Riverdale Country School who will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.

There is some posturing, like the students on the Penn 2011 group discussing how low they can let their grades drop without having their acceptances rescinded. (“It feels so good not to care. I haven’t done homework once since I found out I got in.” “Tell me about it. I let my grade drop from a 98 to an 86 in physics, and for once I could care less.”) Or the conversation about whether to take your fake ID to Tulane. (“I was assuming a big smile/plunging neckline would do the trick.”)

Colleges know about the sites; Robert Alexander, assistant vice president of enrollment management at Tulane, said reading the discussions was a good way for the university to learn students’ interests and concerns. Tulane has also created its own online group for admitted and prospective students.

“It’s not Facebook, so we can manage the content,” Mr. Alexander said.


Weatherman Heads North

Weatherman It's the first day of spring, and despite an excess of white stuff out there, the birds actually are singing and there is a hint of warmth in the air. So how is the Weatherman (formerly referred to as "weather hubby" until I realized I have never liked the term "hubby") celebrating the start of the vernal equinox?

Why, by going to his favorite place on earth, Mt. Washington, of course. The weatherman has made many a pilgrimage to this spot, the highest peak in the Northeast United States, with an elevation of 6288 feet. We've hiked it together a few times in the summer. Mtwashsign

But there is nothing the Weatherman likes more than to visit the mountain in winter conditions (which as far as I can tell extend to about 11 months a year). He is a member of the Mount Washington Observatory, which sits atop the summit, Windmeasurement and which in 1934 recorded the world record wind gust of 231 mph. Mt. Washington is notorious for having the world's worst weather. Even when you hike in August, there are signs warning of dangerous weather conditions. In the winter months, fahgettaboutit. Today they have hit a high of 14 degrees, with a wind chill of -8. Tomorrow they are expecting winds between 80-100 miles per hour with higher gusts.

Snowcat Obviously, the road is closed at this point, so the Weatherman will get to the summit via a Snowcat (kind of like a huge, yellow snow tractor), which is also used to bring supplies to the meteorologists and volunteers in the observatory. He will spend the night with his fellow weatherfriends (indoors - there are dorm-like accommodations) and then, depending on conditions, will either take the Snowcat down or hike to the bottom. (How many other husbands in Westchester own crampons, I wonder?)

These pictures are from last year's trip. The Weatherman is really hoping to be chosen for a one week stint as a volunteer cook  at the Observatory this summer. On the application, he was asked if he could prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for 12. He answered "No, but I could learn." To which the Weatherwife says, "Hah!"  


Mediocre Lamb Shoulder Chops

Rightmoviepix You may wonder why an advertisement of a movie is illustrating this entry instead of a photo of a dinner plate. It's because weather hubby and I ran out to a 5:05 movie last night - "Other People's Lives" - which was excellent and I highly recommend. But the film was long - almost 2 1/2 hours - and we didn't get home until 7:30 p.m. Not only was my son ravenous, but also both boys had a guitar lesson at 8:15. Time was of the essence for dinner preparation.

I had defrosted some shoulder lamb chops and had the presence of mind to call my son from the car and ask him to preheat the broiler. It was not an inspired meal. As is my want, I rubbed the chops with chopped garlic and sprinkled them with ground pepper, and then broiled them a few minutes on each side.

Those cuts are fatty, and the meat curled up and spewed out a lot of grease. Having learned nothing from my kitchen accident the night before, I was racing as I pulled the broiling pan out of the oven and splattered hot grease on myself. Only very minor burns - doesn't even hurt this morning, which is more than I can say for my finger, but I digress.

Served the chops with flavored rice and green beans. It was Monday and that was the best I could do.


Lethal Weapon 5 - Talk to the Hand

Bighand Last night I had a run in with the bread knife. It was a typical kitchen injury. I was distracted - on the phone with my daughter who was traveling back to college, rushing, and worst of all, trying to get away with serving stale French bread. (You can sometimes revive a baguette if you slice it, then sprinkle it with water and microwave it. OK, it's chewy and not crisp, but still edible.)

Well, this puppy had really hardened and I wasn't paying attention and whack - the knife slipped and I sliced my finger badly. (Those damned Cutco knives are lethal weapons.) It was so bloody that it was faint-inducing, and weather hubby and son had to finish cooking the noodles and warming the meat.
This morning weather hubby replaced the large gauze band aid with a smaller one, but typing is still rough and the finger continues to throb.

The incident propelled me to investigate cooking injuries. Not surprisingly, burns are the most common, with cuts coming in second. Microwave ovens send more people to the emergency room than any other cooking device. This piece of information flummoxed me a little - were people actually sticking their hands into their microwaves and pushing start? But I assume it's just that people scald their mouths, because the microwave heats things unevenly.

Any how, I also came across a fascinating piece of research conducted by the absolutely non-biased American Society of Hand Therapists, who also warn of repetitive stress injuries in the kitchen. Evidently movements like stirring, chopping and mixing can also take their toll on hand and wrist ligaments. Between that and carpal tunnel from typing, I'm a goner.  Ah well - Bon Appetite!


Braised Beef Short Ribs

The forecast was for snow and sleet, and we were expecting our friend David for dinner. This called for something special but savory. I opened the latest issue of Bon Appetite and came across this recipe.  I had never made beef short ribs before. I will definitely make them again.

Be forewarned. It's not hard, but it is somewhat time consuming (about an hour of prep time and a fair amount of dish washing, not to mention the two hours of braising) and messy, especially browning the ribs. But so worth it. In the end, the storm was so bad that David couldn't get here. The boys (weather hubby and son) wanted to get at the leftovers for lunch today (3/17) but I wouldn't let them. This yummy meal will be revisited again for Sunday dinner.

Braised Beef Short Ribs  with Coriander and Cardamom

4 - 6 servings

1/4 cup canola oil
4 pounds beef short ribsLeeks
4 large carrots, peeled, coarsely choppedChopcarrots
1 large onion, chopped
1 large leek (white and pale green part only) chopped
1 whole head garlic, halved crosswise
1 Tablespoon ground corianderGarliconion
1 Tablespoon ground cardmom
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 750 ml bottle dry red fruity wine (such as Zinfandel)
2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat canola oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over high heat. Sprinkle short ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add ribs to pot and cook until brown on all sides, about 6 minutes per batch. (This is the messy part.)Brownmeat

Transfer ribs to large bowl. Add carrots, onion, leek, and garlic to pot. Cook until vegetables are brown, stirring often, about 12 minutes.Cookvegs

Add coriander and cardmom, then flour; stir to coat vegetables Add wine and bring sauce to boil. Return ribs and any accumulated juices from bowl to pot. Add chicken broth. Bring to boil, cover and tranfer pot to oven. Braise until ribs are tender, about two hours.

Bon Appetite suggested serving this with mashed potatoes and sugar snap peas and that's just what I did.

Dinnerplatesrbs


Chicken Creole

Zatrainsbox_2 There is nothing wrong with mixes and shortcuts, especially on a weekday night. I am a big fan of Zatarain's New Orleans mixes, which makes several different dishes, but the best is the Chicken Creole. All you have to do is saute a pound of boneless chicken (you can substitute shrimp if you want) is some oil. Then add the rice mix, a 14 ounce can of diced or stewed tomatoes, and water. (I think it's two cups, but the box gives directions.) Then simmer for 20 minutes, and voila - a savory dinner is ready to serve.

The weather hubby likes this with hot sauce. My daughter likes it with a scoop of sour cream. I think it's best with both.Chickenricedinner_2


Fragging at White Plains PD

Mountedpolice There is nothing lower than fragging - taking a hit from one of your own troops. I'm surprised this story didn't get bigger play, but there was a disgraceful incident of fragging recently in the White Plains Police Force. The victim, Buck, didn't make it. It is unclear who the perpetrator was.

Buck was one of the Department's four horses. White Plains has had a mounted unit since 1979. Evidently Buck was kicked by one of his stablemates. At first, vets thought it was a bad bruise, but it seems the vicious attack caused a break, and Buck had to be put down. The force is naturally upset - the officers grow close to the horses, who they take care of daily.

The event is timely, because Westchester County just announced it's own new mounted police force. (I really wanted to go to the press event and see the horsies, but I had to go to the gym.) Let's hope these new recruits - Hudson, Mohawk, Ranger and Zeus - don't develop any bad blood between them.


Every Terrorist Act Solved

Gonzalesandbush OK, We can stop looking now. It looks like we have figured out who is behind every single terrorist attack ever. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in a statement to a military tribunal, took responsibility for 31 attempted or executed acts, including 9/11 ("from A to Z"), the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the shoe-bomber, assassination plans or attempts on Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, the President of Pakistan and Pope John Paul 11,a Bali nightclub bombing that killed more than 180 people and much, much more.

Without a doubt, this is a very evil man who has been responsible for a great many deaths.But here's the thing - in his statement he said that some of the earlier information he gave to the CIA interrogators was the result of torture. (He was held as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo Bay from 2003 until last year.) This stuff, we are to presume, is the truth.

There's a letter in today's Times from Peter Bauer, who was for 11 years a United States Army interrogator. He warns against giving Mr. Mohammed's claims too much credence, writing, "The confession of a man being tortured is limited only by the imagination of the torturer."

It's the subject of torture that I really want to address. Because it looks like  George W.  Bush is going to cut and run from his old friend the  Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.  I give it a week. But here's the thing that gets me.  He is not distancing himself from his buddy because Gonzales condoned torture and threw the Geneva protocols to the wind. That stuff seemed to be ok. While scenes from Abu Ghraib were horrifying the world, the US stood by its man. But now that Gonzales fired a bunch of US Attorneys for political reasons - well, that is just unacceptable - an outrage, and someone is going to have to pay.

Can someone explain the moral compass at work here? Or is it just as simple as the fact that torture victims, as a rule, don't have much of a constituency, where politically appointed attorneys have a lot of friends in Congress?


Va-John-Jay

Chandrawilson This is for Grey's Anatomy fans. Remember that episode where Dr. Miranda Bailey has her baby? In that show she coined the term "va-jay-jay" for vagina, as in "I want everyone to stop looking at my va-jay-jay." Evidently Oprah was particularly enamored with this nickname and now uses it herself, which means it will soon be firmly established in the American lexicon. (Let's not get into a discussion of cutesy names for body parts, because for every "va-jay-jay" there will be 10 "willies" "peters" etc.)

Well, I propose that in Westchester, we call it the "Va-John-Jay" in deference to the unbelievable amount of hoopla the word has caused at the high school. Any thoughts on this?


Steak and Potatoes

Bigsteak Last night (3/14) my son's friend Dan was over for dinner. Dan is big - at least 6'2" - and a football player. When I went to the grocery store earlier in the day, I thought, "red meat." I picked up a nice steak and put it in the cart. As I was strolling by cereals I started to get nervous and returned to the meat section and picked up a second steak. Then later, when I was browsing the condiments, I thought about how much my son, who is nearly 6 feet himself and still growing, eats. So I circled back and put a third steak in the cart. After all, I reasoned, there's nothing better then leftover steak - so many wonderful things you can do with it.

Well, scratch the leftover plans. Both boys had second helpings, and then my husband, aka weather hubby, tackled what was left of one of the steak bones.

The steak was simple - rubbed each one with fresh chopped garlic and sprinkled with pepper. The weather hubby grilled them outside.

Mash potatoes: peel and boil potatoes. After they are cooked, add as much milk and butter as you dare. Salt.

I also steamed asparagus and made a vinagrette for it. And sauteed some mushrooms to go on the steak.

As to dessert - yesterday, it turns out, was also Pi Day. Get it - 3.14 (March 14) the value of the math term pi? OK, I've explained enough. To celebrate my son bought some pies of the dessert variety. He brought one to math class and another home. It was peach, and while I am a stickler for only eating fruits that are in season, this was a darn good pie. It came from Salingers Orchards.

If anyone wants to stop by, the only thing left is about one serving of mashed potatoes.


The John Jay 3 and the V Word

Vaginamonologues Enough already about the John Jay Three and the V word. I can not believe they are being made into martyrs. If you were lucky enough to miss the media saturation on this story, here's the deal: three girls read a brief excerpt from Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" at a John Jay High School event. They read the word "vagina." Initial reports said that the girls had promised the principal not to use the word and then used it anyway. Later they told reporters that they had never made the promise in the first place.

Whatever. They initially each received a one day in-school suspension, but the principal, who is getting hundreds of outraged emails a day on this, yesterday backed off and is not punishing the girls. OK, it was an incredibly stupid move on the part of the principal to censor the word for a body part. And in the name of freedom, let me just add these thoughts to the discussion - earlobe, knee cap, penis, toenail, and bladder.

So he goofed up. But my God, the righteousness of the condemnation! Saviors of the first amendment!  And the amount of press coverage was astounding. Eve Ensler couldn't wait to soak up the publicity and promptly appeared with the girls on the Today Show. (Interestingly though, she canceled an appearance at the school later that week. Not enough TV cameras? Even Stanley Tucci, who is making a documentary about artistic freedom, showed up at the local school board meeting last night.)Eveensler

These girls, as my southern mother would put it, just fell into a tub of butter. They are media darlings, freedom fighters and best of all, they have their college admissions essay topic. Cry for them no more.


iTunes Resurrection

Itunesressurection My iTunes library is back from the dead! As you know from the endless computer meltdown saga, about 500 songs were wiped out of iTunes when my hard drive crashed. The tricky thing was that the songs, some of which I had paid to download, and some of which were from my own cds, were all safe and sound on my ipod. (Apple should be giving me royalties at this point.)

But there were two major problems. One, I was warned that if I plugged my ipod into my new computer, the computer would synchronize with the ipod, thus wiping the ipod clean of all those songs, too. And two, you can not upload songs from the ipod back onto the computer, according to Mac tech support. The ipod, they told me, was designed as a one-way device.

Except. After considerable haggling with tech support (I swear by now they have my photo posted on their walls, with a big red circle around it and a slash across my face) they allowed that there may actually be an unauthorized way to accomplish this task. They directed me to a website (http://www.playlistmag.com/secrets/2006/12/twowaystreet20/index.php) which walked me through the whole process, all the while disavowing any approval, let alone any guarantee, for using this tool.

I was really frightened as I went through the steps, particularly when I plugged the ipod into the computer. I couldn't take another loss. And there were some heart-stopping moments. (Did you know, for instance, that if your ipod freezes, you can give it a sort of cpr and it comes back to life? Just place it on a flat service and simultaneously hold down the the menu and the center button, until you see the apple reappear, and then release.)

Anyway, I am now happily listening to my music again and feeling just the tiniest bit cocky over being able to master the whole thing.Computerwipod


My Glam Life with the Girl Scouts

Cake It's not unusual for people to tell me about what a glamorous life they imagine I lead. Covering breaking stories, meeting interesting people, going to fascinating places - oh the excitement! Let's nip the "fascinating places" part right off the bat - I cover Westchester. That's Yonkers to North Salem, Rye to Tarrytown. I love the county, I do, but exotic it's not. Interesting people - sometimes. As to the stories, I only wish you could have been with me this morning in Briarcliff, where I was covering the kick-off of the 95th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts USA.

I got lured into this one by an enthusiastic pr person at the Girl Scouts, and I thought - OK, I could have fun with this. I remember my own girl scout days and particularly the Signbadges. What was the "dabbler" for, anyway? Did this mean you weren't particularly good at anything? I distinctly recall getting the "hostess badge" which had a steaming cup of coffee on it, and was certainly prescient, given how much I cook. (Food and Drink)

So I thought I could play off the old-fashion badges of the past, and contrast them with badges offered to girls today, like the one in "stress reduction." And surely I could bring up the very modern controversy over trans fat in the Girl Scout cookies.

Well, if I am able to come up with 800 words of any interest based on today's event, I would like to modestly suggest that I should be awarded some kind of prize. Basically it was a 2 hour photo shoot. First, the Girl Scout pr folks spent an hour posing the CEO of Girl Scouts USA with a group of girl scouts from Nassau County.
That's my photographer Alan, in the brown coat, taking a picture of other photogPhotoshootwalan_1raphers taking a picture of the Nassau County girl scouts, who I might add, are useless to me, because I am a parochial girl, and only want to talk to Westchester children.

In some photos the children were holding small trees, because the idea behind the anniversary celebration was a big tree planting.Littletrees It turns out those little trees were fakes though. There was actually going to be one big tree planted. But we couldn't even get to the big tree, because first the girls had to sing. This event had to be both videotaped and photographed. You have not lived the glamorous life until you have heard girl Singingforvideo scouts sing "Make new friends but keep the old..." over and over again until they get it right.
    Finally we get to the tree planting. But that's a fake, too, it turns out. Despite the multiple shots of the CEO and the Nassau county girl scouts with their little shovels, the real tree was planted by these guys, 
who no one was taking pictures of, except me. Of course, the fake tree planting had to be well documented too. I did begin to feel a little sorry Setupfortreeplant for the CEO at this point, becauseActualguys it was chilly and she had to pose in a Girl Scout sweater. About an hour into all this, Alan the photographer, uttered those words so often used by those in his trade: "I think I've got what I need," and took off. I didn't blame him. I did envy him though, because I had to stay for the cake cutting.
For all the talk about the tree planting and the environment, just about everyone took a shuttle from the tree planting back to the conference center which was only about a two minute walk and it was a pretty day too. But at least things were moving along.Edithmacycenter_1
    Since I got up there early (it was quicker walking then riding) I found something that redeemed the Girl Scouts for me  - a nice coffee station that was not only free, Coffee but also offered little shots of hazelnut, amaretto, vanilla and other flavorings. It was a nice touch and helped me pass the time until everyone got out of the van. The girls and the CEO gathered around the cake. Finally, the moment had come! But no - more singing, more photos. The Girl Scouts even had a stylist along, to fuss with the girls' hair, the CEO's jacket and the likCeoandgirlse.
Finally - after enduring another round of "Happy Birthday" to the girl scouts, the CEO made her remarks. And they were exactly the same things she had said to me out in the cold about 1 hour and 45 minutes earlier. And in fact, it was the only interesting thing I heard all morning. Juliet Low, the girl scout founder, taught her troop in 1912 two important skills - how to stop a wild horse, and how to tie up a burglar with 12 inches of cord. OK. Happy 95th Birthday Girl Scouts.


Sue Me Sunday Dinner

I'm tired. Not every night is an inspiration. It was 6:30 p.m. and I hadn't even figured out what I was making. So in the end (on 3/11) dinner was breaded, boneless chicken, tortellini and coleslaw. Everyone knows how to make boneless chicken. The tortellini was spinach and cheese (Ronzoni, sue me), which I just tossed in a good olive oil and sprinkled with pepper and parmigiana.The only remotely interesting part of the meal was the coleslaw, which I made in the Cuisinart by shredding a small purple cabbage, a couple of baby carrots, and about a 1/4 of a purple onion. I added some fresh chopped basil, and then tossed it in a vinaigrette into which I whisked a little light mayonnaise. It was tasty.

My daughter said that even though the meal wasn't particularly adventurous, it was comforting and tasty.
 
Suemedinner Coleslaw


Pasta with smoked salmon and dill

Last night my daughter's boyfriend was over for dinner. I made this dish up for the occasion. It was pretty easy (due to a bit of cheating with a pre-made but tasty lemon-artichoke pesto sauce).

Pasta With Smoked Salmon and Dill

1 box Farfalle (butterfly shaped) pasta
1 six ounce container artichoke lemon pesto*
10 ounces smoked salmon, cut into strips
1 cup chopped dill
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon olive oil

Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Meanwhile cook pasta according to directions. Reserve about a half cup of cooking water. When pasta is ready, toss with remaining ingredients.

You can get Cibo natural Artichoke-lemon pesto at the A&P. It's $5.99.
Serve with loaf of crispy bread and a green salad.

Goodpasta


Cats Hit the Big Time

Lawson and Madeline, those two not-ready-for-prime-time players, were featured in today's New York Times' Westchester section. The kitties join the pantheon of friends and family that have been featured in the author's column. Sadly, the piece was not illustrated with photos of these lovely creatures, but lucky readers of this blog can see them in action.

Maddycouch_6 First please note Madeline, to the left, who is admiring her handiwork. (It's worth clicking on this photo, to get a full appreciation of the damage she has wrought.) She has pretty much destroyed a good portion of the family room couch. Later, Madeline sits triumphaMaddyqueennt on her perch.

Lawson, a recluse along the lines of J.D. Salinger and Greta Garbo, is captured in a rare photo on the right.Photo_32


New Feature!

Whatscookinglogo I love to cook and my family and friends love to eat, so the Kate Chronicles is introducing a new feature - "What's Cooking?" The site will include recipes and thoughts on food and family. It's only in its infancy, but please check back and watch it grow. Click on "Food and Drink"  on the right to find out what was cooking last night.