Zitella's Favorite Recipes

Breakfast for Dinner

 

We didn’t have a plan when my brother and I decided to meet up for dinner last Friday night.  But after a tough work week, we were ready to ease into the weekend.  So instead of going to a noisy, crowded urban hot-spot, we agreed to just hang out at my place.  Besides, I had chicken parm in the freezer I could pop right into the oven.

My Italian-American sisters can back me up on this: we generally have chicken parm in our freezers.  Or a tray of lasagna at the ready.  And red sauce.  Or Bolognese.  It’s just what we do.  We cook and cook and then put it all in the freezer.

But my brother had chicken for lunch so he wasn’t too enthusiastic when I mentioned the chicken parm.

“Well…I have a carton of buttermilk, a pound of bacon, and a dozen eggs in the fridge.  Wanna have breakfast for dinner?” I suggested.

“Yeah!” he eagerly agreed.

For us, pancakes are comfort food and we both needed a dose the other night.

Within minutes, bacon was sizzling, flour was being sifted, and eggs were getting whisked.

My buttermilk pancake recipe comes from some long-forgotten, old-school cookbook.  I re-named the recipe the “best ever buttermilk pancakes” and if you make a batch, I think you’ll agree.

Best Ever Buttermilk Pancakes

 

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Pop Culture

The Candy Holidays

It’s over.  I can breathe a sigh of relief.  You know what I mean.  The candy holidays.  No normal human being can resist the constant barrage of sugary treats that appear in September and last until April.

It starts with that damn candy corn and the “fun size” candy bars.  You can have a few because they’re so small, harmless really.  Yeah, right.  It’s only fun until you suddenly can’t zip up your favorite jeans unless you lie down on your bed and hold your breath.  Let’s say that by some small miracle you make it through Harvest without gaining any weight.  Now it’s the hap-happiest season and you’re surrounded by candy canes and chocolate Santas.  Be careful here or you might get sucked into the sugar vortex that leads to an obscenely gigantic heart-shaped box of caramel and nut-covered chocolates, and a bag of tiny red cinnamon candies that, if you eat one too many, will burn your tongue and leave the roof of your mouth numb.  Next you’re hopping down the bunny trail trying to dodge those pastel-shelled chocolate mini-eggs, (I refer to as “devil eggs”) and neon-yellow marshmallow chicks.

As alluring as all that candy is every time you go shopping at the supermarket, drugstore, or large retail chain, the real challenge, at least for me, is the day after Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter when holiday candy gets marked down to half-price.  Forget the allure of the candy itself.  Who can resist such a bargain?  Clearly, not me.

Easter Sunday has come and gone and here’s my dilemma:

What to do about those Peeps?   A friend of mine once told me of a long-standing tradition that took place at her ivy-league university.  After eating one or two of the gritty, sticky little things, the rest of the brood got put into the microwave.  To get nuked.  Until they exploded.  I swear I’m not making this up.

Summer’s coming and fortunately, there are no Fourth of July sweets to tempt me.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons, Pop Culture

New York to Boston and Back

 

The distance between my two homes is about 210 miles.  I’m a New Yorker who lives in Boston.

New York is the home my parents made for me.  All my peeps are there.  The Big Apple’s in my DNA – in the tone and cadence of my voice.  Regardless of where I go, my birth certificate and passport identify me as a native of the greatest city in the world.  Just like the song says, I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep…”   We talk fast, and we walk fast, like a type-A personality after a couple of cans of Red Bull.  Go people watching in Times Square and you’ll see what I mean.  My favorite piece of architecture is the Chrysler Building.  Favorite hotel, the Algonquin.  Favorite drink, the egg cream, of course.  Growing up in Queens made me a Mets fan.  For life.  Because I’m of the belief that when it comes to baseball, you stick with your home team, no matter what.

Boston is the home I made for myself.  The day I moved to the Bay State I heard the Standells’ song about the Charles River playing on the car radio, “…Well I love that dirty water, oh, Boston you’re my home, and I was hooked.  I fell in love with the swan boats in the Public Garden, the Citgo sign, and Filene’s Basement.  Despite my proximity to Fenway Park, I am not, and never will be, a member of Red Sox Nation.  I did, however, fall hard for the Bruins.  Apparently my home team rule doesn’t apply to hockey.  We’re called Beantown, The Hub, and more recently “Title Town.”  And the water?  Not so dirty.

My tale of two cities is a love story.  When I’m in New York, it feels like home.  Yet when I leave to go back to Boston, I’m on my way home.  And visa versa.  It may sound confusing, but not to me.  Home is where the heart is.

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Best of Boston

Snow Day Dreamin’

The snow days of my childhood were idyllic.  Just like Peter, the little boy in one of my favorite books, Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day, my brother and I, bundled up in our snowsuits, boots, and mittens, would go outside to play in the newly fallen snow and make snow angels.  We would do this over and over, until we were soaking wet and shivering.  My mom would get us dry and warmed up with hot soup and a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies.  What could be more perfect?  The day off from school.

Last week’s Nor’easter brought 55-mile-an-hour winds that rattled my windows and changed the direction of the snow so it appeared to be falling horizontally.  But the City of Boston generally does a good job of snow removal.  And New Englanders don’t scare easily when it comes to extreme weather, until both the mayor and the governor tell everyone to stay home.  And just like that, children and grown-ups alike were given a gift – a most uncommon occurrence – a snow day.

But there are no real snow days anymore.  At least not the care-free, snow angel, chocolate chip cookie snow days I remember.  WiFi and laptops make it not only possible but mandatory for us to work remotely from home.  Maybe I was cozy and comfy in a pair of yoga pants, sweatshirt, and spa socks, as the barrage of emails came as fast and furious as the snow.  With my landline ringing and my cell phone humming, I didn’t even take a lunch break until 3 in the afternoon.  I was so focused on the work at hand, I didn’t realize the snow had let up.  As I watched from my living room window, neighbors shoveled out, walked their dogs, and played with their children.  I’d missed it all.  My snow day was over before it ever began.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Don’t Bug Me

Sunday morning, I wake up with the spins.  Instead of going to church, I kneel on the cold bathroom floor praying to the porcelain goddess.  Hazy and dizzy, I crawl back to bed.  This is some bug I’ve got.

On Monday, I swear I’ll never eat again.  But, fearing dehydration, I force myself to drink watered-down juice.  I sleep a lot, awaken drenched with sweat.  The relentlessly-ringing phone saves me from delirium.  Robo-calls alternately congratulate me – I’ve won a 5-day stay at a Florida resort – or warn me there’s a warrant out for my arrest.  And my mother, keeping a long-distance vigil over my weak, limp body, wants an hourly update on my fever – which has climbed from 101.5 to 102.7.

It’s Tuesday and I haven’t showered for two days so I look and feel disgusting.  After a long, hot shower, I still look and feel disgusting but at least I’m clean when I go to the doctor.

She shakes her head.  “You’ve got the flu, all right.  You’ve got it good.”

“But I got a flu shot,” I whine.

She hands me a prescription for Tamiflu.  “Take it with food,” she warns. “It’ll mess with your stomach.”

Wednesday, toast and Jell-O are my only friends.  I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.  The silver lining?  Surely I’ve lost a couple of pounds.  Unable to sleep, I binge watch several TV shows I’m too embarrassed to name.

By Thursday, the medication’s done a number on my stomach.  I must be down four or five pounds.  I drink flat Pepsi and eat graham crackers.  Just not at the same time.  Bored with television, I answer work email.

Come Friday, I’m out of clean sheets, towels, and PJ’s so I muster the energy to go down the basement and do some laundry.  It’s enough to wipe me out; I take to the love seat, wrapped in a fleece blanket, and moan, in between sips of soup.

Sometime over the weekend, I manage scrambled eggs for breakfast, and broiled chicken with soupy mashed potatoes for dinner.  The worst is finally over.

Monday morning, it’s time to rejoin the world, go back to work.  I step on the scale, anticipating my dramatic weight loss.  No!  It can’t be!  The scale has not budged.

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Girl Talk

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

spring-slidesLast week’s “February thaw” had me checking out the spring forecast – the spring fashion forecast, that is.  Seems THE shoe for spring is a peep toe slide with a block heel.  After living in boots for the past five months, I can hardly wait to slip into a pair of these babies.  But first I’ll need to get my feet back into shape.

Whether you schedule regular pedis at the salon, or are more of a DIY girl, you probably don’t pay the same attention to your feet in winter that you do during beach season.  While I generally polish my toe nails during the winter, how good can they look when I’m forced to keep them clipped uber-short because of the aforementioned boots?  And even though I smother my tootsies in lotion, then wrap them in spa socks in an attempt to ward off alligator skin, my feet are not suitable for public viewing at the moment.

Gotta get to work – heel and toes, heels and toes – my own version of spring training.  So I’ve stopped cutting my toe nails.  In a few weeks I’ll begin shaping them with an emery board, and by Easter they’ll be the perfect length for peep toes and strappy sandals.  There are plenty of gadgets for getting rid of unsightly calluses, and most of them work pretty well.  And finally two words: Epsom Salt.  Dissolve a half-cup of this magnesium-rich stuff in a basin of hot water, and a ten minute soak a few times a week will do wonders for your feet.

Now it’s time to go shoe shopping!red poppy

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

A Red Swing Coat

She stepped out of the taxi, so vibrant, so cute, in her hot pink woolen swing coat.  Her lipstick was a perfect match.  She opened her vintage black patent leather kiss lock purse to pay the driver.  Then she was on the move.  She clearly had places to go.   It was many years ago, but I still remember that older lady in the bubblegum pink swing coat, and how I thought: I want to be her someday.

Now let me preface this by saying that my mom has not yet reached the age of that older lady in the pink swing coat.  She has a way to go yet.  But during one of our recent shopping expeditions, the topic of dressing one’s age came up.

Me, I’m of the belief that looking fashionable has no age limit.  My mother, however, was concerned that the pair of dress pants she was trying on were not exactly age appropriate for her.  “Are they too trendy?” she wanted to know.

Forget that we were shopping in a store that caters to women of a certain age.

“No,” I asserted.  “They fit you like a glove – and you look great.”

She shrugged, “I don’t know…”

vintage-red-swing-coatJust then, the older lady in the pink swing coat came to mind.

“Do you like these pants?”  I asked, “Will you enjoy wearing them?” and before she could answer, I added, “Then who cares what anybody else thinks.”

I shouldn’t have had to convince her to buy the pants.  It’s a shame that we, as women, are always questioning ourselves, especially about our appearance.

As for me, I’m still planning to wear a lively swing coat someday.  But I’m not a pink girl.  So mine will be red.  And with it, I’ll wear lipstick that’s a perfect match.

red poppy

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