Applelicious Cupcakes

Applelicious Cupcakes

Channeling June Cleaver

Channeling June Cleaver

Monday, June 28, 2010

More Recipes on the way

I tried to explain to my mother that I was making her and her recipes a star in my blog but I don't think she understood what I meant by a blog. So I just told her it was like writing an article but on the computer. She was so excited to share her favorite recipes that she is writing some down for me. When I called her the other day to get her recipe for tomato sauce(I want the exact amounts that can be measured, not just a little bit or to taste, some of her favorite measurements) she was busy making what else her sauce and meatballs. And a blueberry pie. If she had time she was going to make a chocolate cake too. Her granddaughter-in-law and three great-grandchildren were coming for lunch. In my family we eat just meatballs in sauce with just some bread to soak up the wonderful sauce for lunch. Skip the spaghetti, the bread is the only carbs you need.
Over the phone my mother was sharing her secrets about making a great sauce. Remember simmer your sauce for a long time, she tells me, the flavors need to cook together, don't rush the sauce it doesn't taste as good. She is right, anytime I tried to make a quick sauce, I could taste the difference. And the secret to her meatballs that are so tender they melt when you eat them, she bakes them in the oven just until they are halfway cooked, then she finishes cooking the meatballs in the sauce. My mother has all these different ways to bring out the best in all she makes. After all she has been cooking for eighty eight years and she learned from the best.
I think one of the reasons that my Mother is such a good cook is that she thinks that making a wonderful meal is easy. She doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. You just put some ingredients together and presto you have a delicious meal in no time.
As soon as I get her finished recipes I will post them.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mangia, Mangia!

I know that I call this Good Dinner Mrs. Mellen and as I’ve been reminded I haven’t shared much dinner. I have been spending most of my time in my gardens, that has been my focus this spring.
As much a I love to garden,I do love to cook and entertain. I learned to cook and appreciate good food from my Mother and Grandmother. I have fond memories of growing up sharing wonderful meals with my extended family. My Grandmother made everything from scratch including growing the herbs, garlic and plum tomatoes for her sauce. Yes in my Italian family we call it sauce not gravy.(Gravy is what you made from turkey and beef). My Grandmother made the most wonderful meals without recipes, fancy tools or gadgets, just the best ingredients and some simple kitchen tools. She didn’t even measure her ingredients she just knew how much by sight. Everything that she made was just delicious, even a simple cheese sandwich was heaven to taste. My Mother carried on this tradition of being an exceptional cook and we all love to eat at her home. I must confess that no matter how many times or how hard I try my turkey never comes close to my mother. Her Turkey rules! Later I will share some of her secret to the most tender, moist turkey.
My Grandmother and Mother always cooked with feeling and intuition, just knowing how to combine the right ingredients that make a simple dish outstanding. I can only aspire to continue the traditions I learned from these two outstanding cooks!
Cooking is not hard, if you can read you can cook. But to be a very good cook you have to practice and enjoy cooking. It’s like anything, sports, work, etc, the more you do the better you become. And leave your fear, intimidation and trepidation at the kitchen door. Have fun and enjoy. Cooking is easy, we're not talking brain surgery. Think of making a meal as a wonderful gift you are sharing with your family and guests.
My Mother makes a wonderful, easy one pot meal that everyone loves in my family. I have served it many times over the years to family and friends. We call it Mom-Mom's Italian Pot Roast. It can be a family Sunday dinner or you can add some courses for a dinner for company. For a Sunday dinner I would just serve Italian Pot Roast with a nice tossed salad of field greens, tomatoes, kalamata olives, croutons tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or with Our Favorite Dressing ( a loaf of good bread. To make the meal more elegant for company you could do an antipasta first course. I like to serve for my antipasta, a home made olive tapenade, assortment of olives, provolone cheese, dipping olive oil,prosciutto and bread. I'd still serve a nice light salad(I love salad and always serve salad with dinner). Finish off this meal with gelato and a nice homemade biscotti. (you can also purchase biscotti) or fresh mellon.
When your done you have a very simple to make yet delicious meal, that can be dressed up for company!

Olive Tapenade

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Refrigerate until serving and can be kept refrigerated up to two weeks. Serve with bread or crackers.

Mom Mom's Italian Pot Roast

4 LB. RUMP BEEF ROAST or EYE ROAST (I use an Eye Roast)
1 GARLIC CLOVE, thinly sliced
1 CUP OF CHOPPED CARROTS (I use baby carrots)
1 LBS PENNA PASTA (you can use any kind this is just what I use)



Slice beef and arrange over pasta
Serve with fresh graded Parmesan cheese.

Helen Anise Biscotti

4 TBSP BUTTER(I like unsalted butter for baking)

In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour and remaining ingredients. With the mixer on a low speed, beat until just mixed, then increase speed to medium and beat 3 minutes. With a spoon stir in the remaining flour. Wrap dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour until firm, or place in freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat over to 375. Grease large cookie sheet. Divide dough in half. On well floured surface, shape each half into a 10 by 3 inch loaf. Place both loves, 2 inches apart on cookie Bake 20 minutes
Remove cookie sheet from oven immediately slice each loaf crosswise into 3/4 inch thick slices. place slices cut side down, on the same cookie sheet. Return to over and bake cookies 5 minutes longer until light golden. Cool cookies on wire rack. Store in tightly cover container.
You can after the cookies are cooled dip ends in melted chocolate, white or dark or just serve plain.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. Have fun making them. Add your own personal touch, maybe you like to add more of one seasoning or omit something that you don’t like. Remember no fear, what’s the worst that could happen, it doesn’t turn out like you want, then try something else. Many times I cooked something that I thought sounded delicious and it wasn’t. Oh and don’t blame yourself. I learned that recipes in magazines and cook books aren’t always good and I do believe that the some recipes are not tested to see if they taste good or that the recipe turns out as pictured or stated.
Enjoy and share your successes with me.

As my Grandmother always said Mangia, Mangia!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ode to Hot Power Yoga

I can't intelligently explain why I love to practice hot yoga and to drip, drip, drip like a leaky faucet - it just feels so good. But yoga is more than just physically feeling good, even more wonderful is mentally feeling good. I started practicing yoga over 30 years ago when I quit smoking. Originally I started the practice to avoid packing on weight when I quit smoking and it worked. As I continued with the practice(I took a class a week and practiced an hour at home every day) I found that not only was I feeling physically changed but mentally changed. Life didn't seem so hard, problems not as large as before, my mind was clearer and life felt wonderful. I practiced yoga for many years and then I had my first child. I continued to still take exercise classes but I don't know why I abandoned my yoga practice. I never went back to my yoga practice even though I loved doing yoga. A moved to another state took me far way from my yoga teachers and I didn't think to look for a studio in my new community. The years went by and my life once again changed. My children are all grown adults now. I have more free time then when I was raising a family. One day, on a road that I drive down everyday, I passed a hot yoga and Pilates studio. I never noticed this sign before. I am intrigued and all the wonderful memories and feeling that I have buried for years about yoga come rushing back. When I get home I goggle the studio and read about Hot Vinyassa Power Flow Yoga. I know it's a mouth full. The practice is done in a studio heated to about 98 degrees. Without really thinking, especially since it had been about 25 years since I seriously practiced a very gentle hatha yoga, I drop in the next night for the 90 minute class. I and my body were totally unprepared for what I experience. First it was so hot, the heat felt like it was suffocating me. At the thirty minute mark I thought I couldn't breath. The oppressive hot air was pushing down on my chest(being new to the studio I didn't realize that my mat was in the hottest part of the studio, right under the heating unit!) On top of all that, sweat was poring out of my body, drenching my hair, clothes and towels. At one point with my head pointing down, then up, sweat was seeping into my eyes, nose and ears. Not a pleasant sensation. Now let's talk about my body, yes I knew all the poses(assanas), yes I had practiced yoga for years but that was over 25 years ago and although my mind remembered all the poses; head stand, plow, wheel, bridge and more, my body just wasn't cooperating. I was shocked at how much I couldn't do even though I am very physically fit. I continued on because I am not going to admit my true feelings, that I want to run from class and just take a deep cool breath and strip out of these smelly, sweat drenched clothes. Finally the class is over. When I get home my husband takes one look at my drenched clothes and red face in disbelief that I paid to look this way and that I am going back again. I did pay, I said and I'm going back for more. I'm hooked again on yoga: to that indescribably feeling I get when I finish my practice and the fact that this practice is fast passed and hot just make it all the better. I am devotee of hot yoga. It sound so good!
I've been going to class two to three times a week for about 3 years now.(I wish I could practice ever day!) I embrace the heat and the physically challenging postures, wanting more when the ninety minute class is over. When I first started back I couldn't wait for each posture to be over but now I want to hold them forever! I enjoy all the different teachers styles and what they each bring individually to my practice. As I said I was already physically fit but I can tell you that I lost weight and went down a size with out dieting or changing my eating habits.(believe me this is true!!) I can see the changes in my body. And I am asked all the time how I became thinner and fitter. I respond like a total moonie gushing on and on about hot yoga. Hot yoga is keeping the middle age spread away. I am and I feel physically stronger. More important is the mental strength, clarity, focus and peace that I've gained through my yoga practice and to me that is what keeps me going to my mat with passion. This past year I faced more challenges in my life than I have ever known and because of my practice and the strength I gained from going to my mat, I never lost my belief that life is wonderful and to embrace all that you face with out judgment or fear.
I will never leave my practice of yoga again. This much I know, that maybe I had to be away for a long time to truly appreciate the gift of the practice of yoga. A gift I will treasure always.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Garden, Garden, Garden and more Garden

Yes I know that I sound obsessed with my garden, but I am so happy when I am working on producing more and more beautiful gardens. Saturday I wasn't torn about my plan of action. After a fun Girls Night out at Pandora's in Legacy place and martinis with fun names like French Manicure at Aquitaine, I still managed to get up early. But no Hot Power Yoga for me (sorry Masaaki I do love your class), out to hot power gardening.
I needed to separate day lilies that were not producing many blooms because they had multiplied too much. These lilies had grown so thick in a few years because they had been planted in top soil that we had trucked in to our garden. I should wait until the fall but with the cool rainy weather that was projected for this weekend, I think that it will be fine. And I will make sure that I keep them watered until the roots take hold. Separating perennials is best done in the fall before it gets too cold but sometimes you just have to break the rules.(Don't tell Martha!)
I spent the rest of the morning dead heading the rest of my peonies and roses. I love roses, old fashion roses and a few years ago I purchased David Austin old fashion roses and I just have had wonderful results from these roses. If it ever stops raining I will be able to take some pictures and cut blooms to bring in the house. Unfortunately the rainy weather we have now rots the blooms before they open which is just terrible.
After all this rain not only are some blooms rotting but the mosquitoes are multiplying expeditiously. And they are vicious! My whole life I have been food for mosquitoes. I just have to walk out of my house and they find me. I've used repellent but I literally have to spray my whole body before I put my clothes on because they bite me through my clothes. And I don't care for the smell of the repellent. This year I tried Off Clip-on Mosquito Repellent. And I was skeptical that this would keep the mosquitoes away but it really did work and no smell.Off! Clip On Mosquito Protection Starter Kit 1 kit
Plants thrive just like other living things form love and attention. The more you shower on them the better grow. This is a big reason why my plants and gardens do so well is that I take excellent care of my plants, fertilizing, water, dead heading, separating and I just shower them with love and attention. And they flourish just like people. That's my secret to a beautiful lush garden. It's that simple and easy!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Off to the woods you go!

The fate of my failed hydrangeas is sealed. Off to the woods they go, never to remind me of my failure to get beautiful blooms all summer long from one of my favorite variety of hydrangeas. I almost transplanted these thorn in my side plants to a garden that I call my overflow garden. This garden is located at the edge of the woods and this past spring when the Charles River flooded the whole area was under water. When I separate plants and don't have room in my more formal gardens, this is where the plants end up. I even wondered "What would Martha do?" I think that I know the answer, she would never get rid of a plant, she would know immediately where she should transplant the under producing plant and finally have wonderful blooms (or better yet one of her many gardeners would take over). I, having had enough of looking at bloom less hydrangeas all summer long, made a hard decision for me and through the plants away!

On to more a much nicer topic Delphiniums. I like many gardeners treat delphinium plants like annuals, though they are classified as perennials. Expensive annuals! Each year I am lured by their beautiful blooms and deep colors, especially dark purple to purchase a few each season. I have never had a single delphinium plant return the following year until this year. I have no explanation but I was so surprised this spring to see four plants return that I raced out and bought 6 more. One thought as to why these plants came back this year is a mild winter or I planted in just the perfect location in my garden for Delphiniums. Even if I never had a single plant return, each year will find me planting a few for the spectacular display of tall grace full blooms that are magnificent.
I've shared a picture of one Delphinium. Oh and right after I took this picture a hummingbird lighted on the plant, sticking it's long beak into the flower to extract the fragrant nectar. I love hummingbirds and I was so excited that I screamed and off the hummingbird flew, so I missed a photo opt. Next time I'll try to stay calm. I have tried for many years to attract hummingbirds with beautiful feeders but all that I have found that really attracts these wonderful birds to my garden is deep colored flowers and shrubs. If you think that I never met a plant that I didn't like you're probably right. But I tend to favor an English style garden with an old fashion feel. Then I do like the garden favored by Monet at Giverny or a tranquil Japanese garden and who wouldn't want to spend some time meditating in a Zen style garden. OK, I just love all gardens. One of my favorite places to view all different gardening styles is The Huntington Library in San Mario CA. If you have the chance to visit, I highly recommend spending the day, viewing the gardens, library, museum and have tea in the Rose Garden Tea Room. You need to book the tea in advance because it is so popular! You will not be disappointed by any of the attractions that the Huntington Library has to offer. Visiting botanical gardens is always a must on vacations, you can find beautiful gardens in the strangest places.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Win some, Lose some

This is the sad tale of my biggest failure in gardening! Today I finally gave up on the Lace Cap Hydrangeas that I purchased many years ago at Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode Island, the estate where John and Jackie Kennedy were married. In all the years that I have tried to get these beautiful plants to bloom, nothing has worked. I have never had a single bloom, not one, even with extra special care and attention. One day I did see a snake sun bathing on the bushes enjoying the lush vegetation that I cultivated. These beautiful plants only bloom on old wood, with the harsh winters in Dedham the plants completely die back only producing new shoots each year.
Today I decided that I had to accept the the truth and dig the Hydrangeas out. I must say it was not for lack of root structure that these plants failed, they were hard to dig up. After a very strenuous hour of digging, tugging, pulling and falling on my butt, I finally succeeded at my task. Now I am having a very hard time just tossing the plants in the woods. I know that this is what I should do but part of me wants to give the plants a second chance. Don't they deserve another try. I'm going to sleep on this decision
I purchased more Endless Summer Hydrangeas, a new variety that blooms on old and new wood making this variety hardy in Dedham winters, to fill the area in my garden left by my removal of the failed Hydrangeas. In the past few years I have added twelve Endless Summer plants to my garden and they do very well. Producing beautiful blooms each year.
Hydrangeas have a special place in my heart because they remind me of my Grandmother, Theresa. She had a beautiful garden filled with lush Hydrangea plants which we called snow balls when I was a little girl. When my family moved into the house that my mother still lives in, my Grandmother divided a plant and gave it to my mother for her new garden. That was over 50 years ago and my Mother continues to cultivate the same plant until now it has multiplied into many Hydrangeas filling her garden with the most beautiful display of blue flowers. My Mother continued the tradition dividing one of her plants for me and I now have three beautiful plants that came from my Grandmother's garden so many years ago. I hope on day to continue the tradition with my children and hopefully one, if not all, will have inherited my gardening gene.
Our weather was strange today, not typical for New England, very humid with violent rain storms off and on through out the day. I was force to abandon working in the garden early in the day. I still had more that I wanted to do but gardening is never done, that is one of the reasons I enjoy gardening so much!

Oh I do call this blog "Good Dinner Mrs Mellen" and funny I've only talked about my garden. Today being Sunday is another tradition that I continue from my childhood and that is Sunday dinner with family. I love causal summertime meals, simply prepared with fresh ingredients. Dinner was mussels in white wine sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh corn on the cob (or as Bostonian say 'con on the cob'), spring greens salad with fresh blueberries, dried cranberries, pecans and blue cheese and grilled lemon seasoned swordfish. Just a wonderful simple meal to enjoy with family. You may have noticed that I didn't make a dessert. Well as I've said before I am on a mission not to gain a pound because I have been measured for the dress for my son's wedding and I have no room to grow! When the dress comes in and I am fitted, it is not going to have to be let out, no, no no!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Living in the Present Moment

So I ended my day yesterday very concerned about what I was going to do this morning. Actually I was agonizing over it. Would I go to my favorite 7:30am yoga class or would I get an early start in the garden. I was really feeling bad about having to make the decision. I was adding stress to the end of the evening and I finally decided that I'd wait until the next morning to decide.
When I woke up the next morning it was raining so I had no choice. I went to yoga. So why didn't I follow my own advice, what I always talk about, living in the present moment, the now. If I did that I wouldn't have even thought about the next day, I would have just enjoyed the end of my evening, peacefully. Instead I kept thinking I want to go to yoga because I enjoy that class and instructor,(plus I have to fit into the dress that I bought for my son's wedding) but then I really have so much that I want to do in the garden. And on and on and on, that little voice in my head creating a useless dialogue and stealing the present moment. I could have spent my energy reading or doing something else I enjoy. As it turned out all that going back and forth was for nothing. Everything worked out just as it should, I had a wonderful yoga class that gave me so much peace and energy to spend the rest of the day working in my garden. I finished planting some hanging baskets and I did some dead heading of my peonies, weeded, all good stuff. Actually I finished everything that I wanted to do and more, I went to a great yoga class!!
I am not even going to think about what I am going to do or have to do tomorrow. I am just going to let what shows up happen, enjoying tonight, the present moment, knowing that everything is just as it should be.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Peonies, Peonies and more Peonies

Gardening is in my blood! I come from a long line of gardeners who love to spend hours cultivating a lush garden. My Mother who is eighty eight still spends her mornings working in her garden and it is just beautiful. She claims that she is slowing down because now she can only spend 2-3 hours working in her garden before she is tired instead of 4-5 hours.
It is hard to explain to a non gardener how you can spend endless hours getting lost in your garden and losing all sense of time. And the exhilaration you feel working the soil and planting. Or the joy and satisfaction you experience after a long winter and you see all the work you did in the fall bursting into bloom with the first harbingers of spring, the crocuses, tulips and daffodils. As much as I love the spring bulbs, I am just crazy about perennials especially Peonies. But like a mother with her children I tell all my plants that they are my favorite.
When I started planting Peonies, I was only going to plant a few, three to be exact, in front of a picket fence.(famous words of mine) Nothing too much, just a subtle splash of pink in front of the fence. The result was so beautiful that I couldn't stop from planting more and more and more. I now have sixteen Peonies in assorted colors that are just so wonderful and lush that I can't choose a favorite. More will be planted in the fall for sure!!
Peonies are so easy to grow, they thrive in good, well drained soil, in a sunny location. Oh, they like to stay put, so find a good location and don't move and they will produce years and years of beautiful fragrant blooms. I find it fascinating that these large bushes die completely back in the winter and all the growth and flowers are produced in such a short few months, in another week all the blooms will be spent. No more beautiful blooms, all I can do is look on line at all my favorite growers of Peonies web sties and dream of what I will buy to plant in the fall.
Fortunately I have a garden full of different perennials to admire through the summer and fall.
I know, I know, I am obsessed with my garden. And it causes me to make some hard choices, like tomorrow morning do I go to a great hot yoga class at 7:30am or do I start early in my garden? Decisions, Decisions, what I am to do!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why "Good Dinner Mrs Mellen"

The idea for a blog called "Good Dinner Mrs Mellen" came from my family. My family was always complementing me on my cooking, not only the food but my presentation. So after enjoying the dinner that I prepared, they would always tease me and say "Good Dinner Mrs Mellen " And it stuck. When I told them I wanted to do a blog and asked what I should call my blog, there was only one suggestion. I love to cook and entertain. I am passionate about all that I love, family, friends and my home. I love not only to cook but to garden, decorate and make my surroundings beautiful. Some might say that I am at times over the top, (especially by New England standard) but I accepted a long time ago that this is who I am and what makes me happy. Oh, and to all my friends that are reading this and think I'm going to blog about clothes, this is not about my love of clothes and fashion. (that would take a whole new long blog to cover that topic. I do love clothes and fashion!!!)

So now I am starting the journey into being a blogger. My blog is about a life style that I enjoy creating and sharing with others. So just as I welcome everyone to my home, I welcome all to my blog and hope that you enjoy my posts.