Spike looks like he’s enjoying himself.
Today was the Sato Social at the animal shelter where I got my dog Spike three years ago. Sato is the Spanish term for the street dogs that populate Puerto Rico. Most of them were once household pets who were abandoned by owners who simply didn’t want them anymore. It’s a huge problem in Puerto Rico, but thankfully there are several organizations and countless people who rescue these dogs and fly them to the United States. In America they are placed in no-kill shelters to await their forever homes.
The Sato Social is an annual event where owners of rescue dogs mingle with each other, with the shelter staff and volunteers, and some of the rescuers who came from Puerto Rico just for the occasion. It was nice to be able to say “Thank you” to these dedicated animal lovers.
The day started out rainy, and we were concerned that the social might be postponed, but the sun came out at the same time that the social started, so the party went on as scheduled. Spike mingled with others dogs and their owners. He looks like he’s enjoying himself.
Baxter, a really sweet dog with severe neurological problems. His owner assured us he was happy and not in pain.
In 1962 Helen Gurley Brown published “Sex and the Single Girl.” It encouraged women to be independent, financially as well as, um, in other areas. It was shocking for its time, and promptly sold two million copies in three weeks. The success of the book led to Helen Gurley Brown being appointed editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1965. In 1969, Gurly Brown followed up “Sex and the Single Girl” with “The Single Girl’s Cookbook.”
My aunt was a single girl in the Sixties. She also didn’t like to cook.”The Single Girl’s Cookbook” was as much a part of her culinary arsenal as Peg Bracken’s “I Hate To Cook Book.” Last night I made the Mountain Greenery Casserole from “The Single Girl’s Cookbook.”
Mountain Greenery Casserole
4 to 6 servings
1 to 1-1/2 pounds beef shoulder or chuck, ground
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
3/4 cup half and half or light cream
3 cups mashed cooked potatoes (instant or regular)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sherry
Greenery topping (see below)
Brown meat in an ungreased frying pan over moderate heat, stirring often, until the red is gone. Add thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add 1/2 cup of half and half, and set aside.
If you are using instant mashed potatoes, fix them according to package directions. Add to them the remaining 1/4 cup half and half, butter, sherry, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and beat well (if you are making mashed potatoes from scratch, add these to the potatoes while you’re making them – TMM).
Grease a casserole. Spread half the potatoes on the bottom. Cover with meat mixture and add the rest of the potatoes. Bake, uncovered, in a moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 15-20 minutes. At serving time spread greenery topping over casserole. That’s the “mountain greenery,” and very pretty.
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be used as a topping on other hot or cold dishes.
Basically, the Mountain Greenery Casserole is like shepherd’s pie with a sour cream and green onion topping. I thought the topping might be weird but it was delicious. It’s like putting sour cream on a baked potato. I was lazy so I used instant potatoes. I also omitted the sherry because I didn’t have any. Hey, maybe I’m a single girl who hates to cook too. My final opinion? This dish is another winner that I’m going to add to my casserole repertoire.
There was a white lilac tree in the backyard of the house that I grew up in. It was behind my sister’s room. In the warmer weather whenever she had her window open the fragrance of white lilacs would waft into her room carried on the breeze. I loved that tree.
I remember at my First Communion party I met a distant relative for the first time. We called her “Aunt” Carmela, but I think she was a cousin of my grandfather’s. She was ninety-two years old! I was so impressed that she was almost one hundred. I had never met anyone “that old” before. My sister and I went out in the backyard and brought Aunt Carmela a bouquet of white lilacs from our tree. It was the first and last time I ever saw her. It’s been almost thirty years since I lived in the house that I grew up in. I still have dreams of that house, and I still think of that lilac tree. They both epitomize a perfect childhood, evoking happy memories in a more innocent time.
Recently I noticed that the tree in front of my house is a white lilac tree. I don’t know how it could have escaped my notice in the year-and-a-half that I’ve lived here. This is the second full spring and summer I’ve lived here, but I don’t remember this tree blooming and giving off that familiar lilac fragrance last year. We’ve had a lot of rain the past two weeks, so maybe it’s blooming early or with more determination than last year. The fragrance of lilacs greets me every time I leave the house. I can’t help but feel that this is a little gift to me. I have my white lilac tree back.
In honor of my exciting Pyrex haul today, I thought I would break in a couple of pieces and make a retro recipe for dinner. This one also comes from Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book.
1 pound ground round steak
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce plus 1/2 can tomato juice, beef broth or water
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans with liquid
1 medium-size bag corn chips
A bit of lettuce
More chopped onion
Brown together in a little oil the ground meat, onions and garlic. Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano and chili powder. Now dust off a good-sized casserole, grease it, and alternate layers of this mixture with layers of beans and corn chips, ending with corn chips. Bake it, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, and uncover it for the last 10. Before you serve it, strew some shredded lettuce and chopped raw onion on top, for that Old-Tyme Mexicali look.
In case you’re wondering if tomato sauce still comes in a can, it does. I bought a can of Contadina tomato sauce for $1.29. I figured Contadina was probably around in 1960 when Peg Bracken wrote her book, so it was authentic. One thing I did change was I substituted cumin for the oregano the recipe calls for. Oregano sounds weird to use in a Mexican recipe, but in 1960 they probably didn’t have exotic spices in grocery stores. And if you’re wondering if baked Fritos are weird in a recipe, they are – but they’re also delicious!
I served Pedro’s Special with a side of Goya’s Mexican Rice. It was the perfect complement to the rich tomatoey beef and the crispy baked Fritos.
I went to a local consignment shop today. The owner acts as a middleman for the many different dealers who sell under its roof. He also sells their stuff for them on eBay – just like the “We Sell Your Stuff on eBay” store Katherine Keeler’s character ran in Forty Year Old Virgin. The store had a fair amount of Pyrex, but prices were all over the place. I purchased a few choice items and left behind the overpriced pieces.
None of the prices were exactly bargains, compared to thrift stores. Still, I managed to get a complete set of four Pyrex Cinderella nesting bowls in the Shenandoah pattern (above and below) for less than one dealer was asking for a large Pyrex mixing bowl alone.
I also found a Pyrex turquoise covered casserole with clear lid with scroll design. I don’t know if this piece has an actual name. Searches for it on Pyrex blogs and etsy reveal identical items but no one has a name for the pattern.
I also found two Corning Ware Avocado Round casserole dishes. The larger one is missing its cover, but it would make the perfect mac and cheese dish.
And last but not least, I found two more Pyrex mixing bowls. The small Butterfly Gold 1 pint bowl is in excellent condition, the Spring Blossom/Crazy Daisy Cinderella bowl, not so much. It’s faded and a little scratched, but I have a few other pieces of Spring Blossom so I couldn’t pass it up.
The grand total for all of these items was just under $50. It’s more than I would have liked to pay, since I can often get Pyrex for much cheaper at thrift stores, but I really wanted to add these items to my collection. And as luck would have it, the lady in line behind me at the checkout counter told me about a yard sale she and four other families on her street are having tomorrow. She said there will be lots of housewares. I know what my plans for tomorrow are.
Today is trash day in my neighborhood. Somebody threw away THIS:
Spike checking out my new chair
I don’t normally take other people’s trash but if I didn’t take this chair one of the many scavengers that troll the neighborhood on trash day surely would have snagged it. Despite the hideous faux-damask spill-proof vinyl upholstery, I immediately saw the possibilities for this chair. The early Sixties Mid-Century-Modern chair frame just screamed “Reupholster me!” The solid-wood frame is sturdy and the padding is still firm. It’s actually very comfortable. All it needs is new fabric.
I don’t have to buy new fabric for it because I’ve got a large stash of fabric that I was saving to make pillow covers with – one of many crafty projects I’ve been meaning to take on but haven’t gotten around to yet. I’ve been looking at blogs, Pinterest, and YouTube for tutorials on DIY reupholstery to get some much-needed guidance.
I’m going to use this chair to go with my desk – a Paul McCobb Planner desk that I scored in an antique shop in Essex for way less than what Paul McCobb would usually go for anywhere else except coastal New England. It had already been painted white, so I didn’t feel guilty about giving it a fresh coat of high-gloss white paint. I can paint this chair white without guilt too.
I’m looking forward to my first attempt at DIY reupholstery. It will give me a chance to break out my seldom-used sewing machine. If it turns out well, I might scour my neighborhood more on trash day in search of reupholstery projects.
It’s been raining for four days straight. Could there finally be an end in sight?