Tag Archives: RECIPES


If my math is correct, it has been 48 days since I put a new post up on this blog. I kept telling myself that I could at least put up some photographs to let people know I am still here. That didn’t really work because, lately, I haven’t liked my photos anymore than I’ve liked my words or my thoughts. That sentence sounds gloomier than the reality behind it, so I am moving on to other words and thoughts.

Possible excuses for my lack of blog production:

  • Here in Charlottesville, Virginia—not as snowy this year even as Washington, D.C. (let alone the Northeast)—the snow and cold gave everyone an excuse for taking February off. Me, too, mostly.
  • Once the weather warmed up in March Tom and I were renovating our yard and garden. Plus, Tom and I got caught up for awhile in March Madness.
  • Other facile excuses: We work out at the gym two hours most days. By the time we walk to and from the gym, shower, etc. and maybe get some coffee and work on the NY Times crossword, a certain amount of the day is gone along with any thoughts I might have had.  People have been working on our house and this leaves me feeling unsettled.
  • Good excuses: We’ve had family and friends visit. We’ve walked to the University of Virginia campus for concerts. Tom and I are now volunteer gardening in two small areas near our house and we are beginning to help out at an emergency food bank.
  • Cranky excuses: I am embarrassed about how few followers my blog has. I say to myself, if I only had a cute cat and I videoed the cat doing clever cat tricks, my blog would be a hit.* I’ve also thought of putting up more recipes (soon, I promise, not 48 days from now) or writing about politics. Save the Colorado River, knock down the Glen Canyon Dam, declare Greater Canyonlands a National Monument, and stop wasting everyone’s time on ill-advised high stakes educational testing. Hmmm. That was fun, but I am already weary of my own diatribes.
  • April excuse: Sometimes, despite the crocuses and daffodils and the cherries and the redbuds, I find no rest in this beautiful world. I feel like I want to go eat worms (if you don’t know the childhood ditty, check online). However, faced with the reality of all the fat and juicy worms in my garden, I’ve decided to cheer up, grow up (about time), and leave the worms for the birds.

Some photos anyhow:

very early birds

very early birds



daffodils (Marieke)

daffodils (Marieke)

creeping phlox

creeping phlox

*I did once have a cat, if one could be said to “have” a cat. I received this little cat (from my later-to-be sister-in-law, Betsy) back when I lived in my cheesy basement apartment in Salt Lake City. Talk about cute cats: Mani Sheriar Irani looked like a Siamese except for her little black and white striped tiger legs. She had turquoise eyes.  I loved Mani. If she is still in one of her nine lives, I love her still. The thing is, it turns out that I was terribly allergic to her. As a kitten, Mani would sleep on my neck. I couldn’t breathe. Even so, I kept her until I was pregnant with my first child. I figured I was breathing for two, so I was able to give Mani to one of my students.

Coming soon: Swedish Ice Box Cookies

Montezuma Pie

Last week Tom made Montezuma pie and it was delicious. I wish I had taken a photo of it to show you, but I was too interested in eating it to focus on anything else.

The first time we made Montezuma pie was in the modest house on Verbena Street in Denver in the early 1980s. It was a modest house, but we had an extravagant garden. For example, I had sugar snap peas and roma beans growing on fences everywhere. Also, the garden included four established rhubarb plants. We had pie (I used the Joy of Cooking recipe), coffee cake (I used the recipe from the same cookbook we got the Montezuma pie recipe, the name of which I forget), canned rhubarb, and rhubarb jam. I think this was where I first grew Anaheim peppers and it was definitely the first time I grew cilantro. It grew waist-high and I didn’t even like it much then. I can’t remember whether I grew the tomatillos for the dish..

Reasons I am writing about Montezuma pie (in order from least important to most important):

    –Readers seem to like it when I include recipes in the blog.

–It’s August–hot and dry where I am in Boise, and, I hear from my sources, unusually cool in the East–but it is harvest time nonetheless.

–Eating the dish last week reminded me of happy times when the children were young (well, we all were) and of gardens I have loved.

I hope you enjoy the dish, which also tastes good without the chicken. Happy August.

Montezuma Pie


  • 3 split chicken breasts, cooked, skinned, boned and shredded, and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 onions, sliced and cooked in oil until soft and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 Anaheim chiles, roasted and peeled and sliced into strips, then salted to taste
  • Tomatillo sauce–cook one pound of tomatillos, one diced onion, 6 garlic cloves, and one diced serrano or jalapeño in water just to cover, until soft. Pulse or mash entire cooked mixture including liquid until chunky-smooth. Add enough liquid (water or chicken broth to make one quart total.   Add one half bunch chopped cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1 pound grated cheese–Monterey Jack, pepper jack, or whatever you want
  • 1 pint Greek yogurt, sour cream, or crema Mexicana
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas


In a suitable casserole dish (non-aluminum, a glass 9 by 13 baking dish works well) place one third of the tomatillo sauce.   Place 6 tortillas over that, evenly.   Put one half of the onions, Anaheims, and chicken evenly over the tortillas. Place one third of the tomatillo sauce evenly over that.   Place one half of the cheese and yogurt evenly over that. Repeat with remaining tortillas, onions, Anaheims, chicken, tomatillo sauce, cheese and yogurt.   Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until done, with cheese bubbling and brown, about 45 minutes to one hour.



New Orleans Pralines

I started the compilation of family recipes about six years ago.  It’s not finished, but I do manage to keep transferring the document file from one computer to the next. The objectives of this particular project were three-fold: divest myself of my battered gray file box with its motley collection of scraps of stained and faded recipes, share favorite recipes with my family, and finally, satisfy my apparently unquenchable need to organize.

Currently the recipe compilation is 22 pages long.  I finally tossed out the greasy old file box (circa 1970s), but I have noticed that I still can’t bear to throw away many of the scraps of paper.  I’m going to try again to do so today and also share a couple of recipes with you.  I’m leading off with my mother’s New Orleans Pralines.

Just two weeks ago, I braved possible interference by TSA officers to take a batch of pralines on the plane with us to the annual family meeting.  Of the many, more typical, holiday treats we enjoyed as kids (e.g., pecan pie, pumpkin pie, mince pie), the most iconic for us were my mom’s pralines.  Even then in our childhoods—long ago now—pralines seemed like a slightly unusual treat.  What I am telling you is, if you are not afraid of hot bubbling sugar and butter, my mom’s pralines are quick, easy, delicious, and the cook gets accolades she hardly deserves for the amount of work she puts in.  Here’s the recipe:

New Orleans Pralines
2C. firmly packed brown sugar
½ C. water
2 C. pecan nut meats
1/3 C. butter or margarine

Combine sugar, water, and butter.

Cook slowly stirring constantly until mixture boils
Add nutmeats
Boil slowly, stirring constantly, to 246° F (firm ball stage)
Remove from heat.
Drop by tablespoons on waxed paper, making patties 3” in diameter.

My notes: I think we had a candy thermometer and I also have used a tall glass of water to test the firm ball stage, but basically, you can tell the candy is done when the mixture begins to change from a glossy to a matte look and to thicken just slightly.  Then you have to quickly spoon the mixture onto the waxed paper.  If you start to drop the spoonfuls too soon, you will know because the candy doesn’t immediately start to set up. If you wait too long, the mixture could harden in the pan.  If you wait just a little too long, the last few candies might have a dull consistency, but everyone enjoys those just the same.

My take away: Apparently pralines resonate with many people.  I conclude that because when I typed in “pralines” in the Google search box two minutes ago, there were 784,000 hits in 0.27 seconds.  Well, I love pecans, brown sugar, and butter as much as the next person, but it’s channeling my mother that makes these treats so tasty to me. About cooking and life in general, I learned many things from my mother. I learned how to cook, then peel, and oil the warm potatoes to get just the right consistency for the potato salad, I  learned how to roll out pie dough, how to make smooth turkey gravy, and, of course, conjure up the pralines. What I really learned—reflecting years later—was more significant: Good work requires close concentration and a deft hand. Don’t make a big deal out of things. Keep your work surfaces uncluttered (I struggle with this). Be generous.

Bonus: In the residual pile of my mother’s recipes, I found a copy of my great aunt’s butterscotch pie written in her own hand, I am guessing at least 60 or 70 years ago.  You can see it below.  Now, I’m going to warm up a plate of leftover turkey, dressing, gravy, squash, and cranberry relish.  I lift my fork to us all and our happy memories. Happy Thanksgiving.

butterscotch pie#1


butterscotch pie#2