Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tasty Tuesday ~ Ten Gallon Apple Pie

As seen on THE CHEW:

However, I modified the ingredients according to our tastes.  I don't cook with any alcoholic beverages, I cut the sugar and I added some tapioca because that is my preferred thickening for apple pie.  I cheated on the crust just because I had so much going on that I didn't want to make and roll out my own.  I bought a double pack of deep dish shells.  I used the second shell for the top crust.  It's handy and easy when pressed for time.

I did peel the apples at my husband's request.  Also, as a WONDERFUL TIME SAVER, I sliced the apples in my Cuisinart food processor.  This pie contained a 5 # bag of apples, minus the one my husband ate the day before....  Quick as a wink, I had wonderfully uniform, thinly sliced apples...  I highly recommend this method of slicing apples!

This pie was WONDERFUL and will certainly be the new Thanksgiving tradition in this house.

Monday, November 28, 2011

First Thanksgiving ~ BFF 142


This Thanksgiving was the 43rd Thanksgiving since I went out into the world on my own. Most of those years, I cooked a large dinner for family and friends. A typical Thanksgiving dinner at my house included all of the following:



Mashed Potatoes


Green beans

Acorn squash

Sweet potato casserole

Cranberry/orange relish

Hot rolls

Pickle selection

Both green and black olives

Stuffed celery

Nuts in the shell with nutcrackers in a dish on the coffee table

Apple pie

Pumpkin pie

Mince meat pie

I may have left something or another out….

Anyway, the point is that, aside from the few holidays at the house of a family member, I served at least 30 of those 43 years! Once a year I cooked enough for a small army and some of those years, I cooked all of that for two after all family moved away or died.

Each year, I was so tired from the preparation for the holiday and all that cooking that I just wanted people to hurry up and eat, then just go home! Until I got wise and changed my ways... Our menu now is quite simple:



Mashed potatoes


1 vegetable

Cranberry/orange relish (I have to have it!)

Apple pie

Pumpkin pie

Quite a difference, right? And much more enjoyable holiday for me!

But, this is really about my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was 21 and married less than a year. My (then) husband was given a turkey by his employer. When he brought that turkey home, I was undaunted. I flew into action. I planned my first Thanksgiving menu, which looked an awful lot like my Mom’s menu (see above). In other words, I planned a meal just like I would have had at home with my parents.

My husband was so excited to be having his own first Thanksgiving dinner that he invited friends. He didn’t stop at a few and he didn’t keep track of how many he invited. At one point I asked him exactly how many people he invited. He didn’t know… I didn’t know the extent of it until Thanksgiving Day, 1968, when people started arriving at our house.

When I saw all the people, I started worrying that there would not be enough for all, but one thing I had not been able to master yet was carving my cooking habits down to two people. So, I had cooked as much as my Mother would have and more because there would be extra people.

The other thing I worried about was where everyone would sit. As newlyweds, the only furniture we had was a sofa with matching chair and coffee table given to us by my mother-in-law, a small drop leaf kitchen table (imagine apartment size) with 2 chairs, a card table and a bed. That was it! I really wanted to wring my husband’s neck, but that wouldn’t have been the thing to do in front of polite company….

When all was said and done, and heads counted, twenty-two guests shared our first Thanksgiving. Our guests happily sat everywhere - on the floor, on the porch steps, on the patio – well…just anywhere they could find a spot to sit. Somehow, everyone had enough and we still had leftovers to enjoy the next day. Best of all is that it was a wonderful first Thanksgiving that I cherish in my memory to this day.

This past Thanksgiving will go down in our memory banks as the first Thanksgiving of the Mile High Apple Pie. I am sure a new tradition was born with this…


What a difference between our first Thanksgiving and the last…

Am I right?



Written by Darlene Cirinna

Copyright November 28, 2011

All rights reserved.  Do not reproduce.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tasty Tuesday ~ 11/22/11


A nutritious breakfast ~


breakfast 10-8-11 011

Oatmeal with apple, trail mix and dusted with cinnamon.  Yummy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Okeechobee, Florida in the 1960’s. Reproduced from a photo in my high school yearbook~1965.

I got a little homesick earlier this week. I don’t get that way often, but when I do, I just kind of linger there for a while. I’ve had a wonderful life in Orlando for the past 32 years, but there is always that little part of me that wishes we never moved away from my hometown. And then there is the little part of my heart that often yearns to return. But, things change and my hometown has changed. My last few visits were to a place I don’t even know any more. My hometown is now a bustling little metropolis compared to the sleepy little town it was when I was growing up.

It was the summer of 1960 when my Dad’s job relocated him to Okeechobee, Florida. I was 12 years old and a whole different world opened up for me. Little did I know how different…

Okeechobee was located just 5 miles north of Lake Okeechobee.  The town was small and very quiet. My Mom said they rolled up the sidewalks at 8 pm on Saturday nights. I believed her and dearly yearned to watch them roll up the sidewalk some time… LOL... I was a kid…what can I say…

My new home had pioneer families, cowboys and Indians! There were generations of ranchers, Seminole Indians and, let’s not forget the fishermen. I was to learn later that my new home was rich in history and heritage.

The summer of 1960 might have been the best summer of my life. I always wanted a bicycle, but it was not safe in the city, nor was it safe on the busy truck route that ran in front of my childhood home in NY. I got my first bike in the summer of 1960! I lived on that bike all summer long! Most days, my sisters and I rode our bikes to the public swimming pool in town. It was about a 3 mile ride to the pool. Three times a week, I made a detour to the public library to return 6 books and check out 6 more. The town was so small that the public library was only open 3 days a week. Six books was the maximum allowed for check out. I read a lot of books that summer…when I wasn’t out exploring my new home on my bicycle. That summer was the first of many wonderful years in a town where everybody knew your name!

In the fall, I entered 8th grade as the “new girl”. The year before had been particularly hard on me. My 7th grade, in yet another big city school, was a disaster. I had no friends because it seemed that everyone already had friends before entering junior high school. I spent a whole school year with no friends. Before that, I always had my sisters, but that was the first year that I had to attend a different school than my sisters. It was just AWFUL! So, when I entered 8th grade in Okeechobee, I didn’t expect much. In fact, I expected more of the same. But, I was in for a surprise. The kids were so nice and I was welcomed into the fold just as if I belonged there.

My high school years were better than most teens can hope for. clip_image006
High school also included the proms and the senior trip to Washington, DC and NY City.
Those were GREAT times!
I even played Powder Puff football!  See jersey # 41?  Yes…that is me!

clip_image010In addition to the school dances and athletic games, we had a teen center where dances were held most weekends

There was a drive-in theatre where teens engaged in amateur necking. The drive-in theatre was across the street from the main local haunt for teens – the Tastee Freez. Many a delightful hour was spent at the Tastee Freez.

Another favorite teen meeting place was Padgett’s Drug Store with a soda fountain where teens often met for a cherry or vanilla coke – the best cokes in town!

 Saturday afternoons were spent at Gilbert’s Theatre. Admission was a dime, but Dad gave us each a quarter for
admission and snacks, which, BTW, was plenty!

 clip_image016I have many fond memories of Mr. Gilbert Culbreth. He was one of the most generous men in Okeechobee. Each year at Christmas time, he dressed up like Santa and gave out bags of candy at the theatre. Every kid in town was invited and no kid was too old to go to a Gilbert Christmas Party! Mr. Culbreth also owned Gilbert Chevrolet and Gilbert Tires. It was only recently that I learned that he once gave away new cars!  I am sure Mr. Culbreth is remembered fondly because he was a blessing to so many of us.

Speaking of blessed…This is the church of my youth…
In my youth, this proud old hotel still stood, with shops and our post office at street level.
The traffic light you see in the photo was still the only traffic light in town when I was growing up. It was referred to as “THE traffic light”… Instructions to get anywhere included “when you get to THE traffic light, turn….” Other directional instructions included mention of old businesses that were no longer in operation, yet we all knew what they meant when instructions included “turn left where the old bank used to be”, or some such reference point known by all except the visitors to town, which, BTW, were the only ones who needed any directional instructions to begin with. Everyone who lived there knew exactly where everything was AND where everything “used to be”.

Running down the middle of town is block after block of Flagler Park where many an outdoor function took place. I am happy to say that Flagler Park exists to this day and the Veteran Memorial portion of the park has been enhanced.
Our wonderful world included rodeos
and parades…
And lots of fishing…
When I was a teen, I might have described my hometown as “hokey”, but now, with 20/20 hindsight, I can see that it was the best place in the world to grow up.

My old hometown may have morphed into a small city, but my memories remain intact. I am grateful that my Dad’s job took us to Okeechobee in the summer of 1960 ~ the best summer of my life!

NOTE: I shared my hometown with you in black and white photos because I wanted you to feel what I felt in that era. It was a simpler world – it was a wonderful world. I “borrowed” photos from my high school yearbooks, the State of Florida Archives and a couple of them from Tommy Markham's Genealogical & History (used with permission). You may have noticed that several photos were older than the 1960’s… Trust me…things didn’t change much and they portray things as they still were in my youth. Sadly, our most famous landmark is long gone. Where the Southland Hotel stood, you will find a CVS today. I find that sad….very sad…

Written by Darlene Cirinna
November 17, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cilantro Salad for Tasty Tuesday


An original dish created in Darlene’s Kitchen…By Darlene


2 bunches of cilantro, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced

Thinly sliced sweet onion

1-2 firm plum tomatoes, diced

1 small package salad shrimp – thawed, rinsed and drained

1 small package artificial crabmeat, diced

Season with salt, pepper and cumin to taste

Juice of one lemon

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil

Toss well. It is good first day, but I prefer it the second day. The cilantro is wilted a bit the second day (this pic is day 2), but the flavor is great!

Nice cool salad to eat alone or as side dish in a meal.



Darlene Cirinna


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


A simple, tasty meal in just a few minutes.  Did I mention EASY?

  • Bell peppers – any color
  • Sweet onion
  • Steak-ums or any kind of thin sliced or formed beef  (Suggestion…roast beef from the deli, sliced thin, works perfectly!)  I used Stake-ums when I made this for the blog.
Fajita 002
Slice Steak-ums into strips.  Stir fry until done.  Drain beef on paper towel.  Drain all grease from the pan and wipe clean.  (Do not cook the meat with the peppers and onions. It will be greasy! Yuck!!!) 

Add a drizzle of canola oil (or whatever oil you prefer) to your cleaned pan.  Season your peppers and onions according to your taste.  I use salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder.  Add the sliced peppers and onions and then stir fry until the onions approach translucent stage.  Add beef back into the pan, mix well, then place a small amount of the mixture on a flour tortilla.

Fajita 012
I like to warm the tortilla just a bit before eating.  I roll, then secure with a toothpick.  Ten SECONDS in the microwave is enough for me.  Or, you can just roll it up and eat it without warming.  Your preference….

This is good with slices of chicken too.  Just make sure you cook the chicken all the way through!

Bon Appetit   (LOL…I watched Julie & Julia last night)

Darlene Cirinna

November 8, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011


BFF 138 PINKAmy slowly opened her eyes to another day in what has become a string of like days, one following another like little troopers.

Eyes gritty from sleep, Amy stared at the ceiling and thought about that old movie about groundhogs. The one where every day starts and ends the same ~ over and over and over…

With a sigh prompted by a sharp command from her dog, Amy eased out of bed to face a new day. She will do the same thing today that she did yesterday and will do tomorrow ~ all with a mask firmly in place.

As Amy makes her way to the back door to let Buffy out for her morning constitution, she thinks about her life. Amy refers to her life as a “plastic life”. From closer to the end than the middle, she knows nothing was really real. Amy often reviews her life and the paths taken at each juncture. For the most part, life was satisfying, but there were the landmines… the things that blew up her world, forcing her to put on another mask to survive each landmine explosion. She thinks about the masks that she donned to cover the emotional hole left by brokenness within.

She wonders….”Is everyone like this?” She reviews the masks she set firmly in place at different junctures of her life.

There was the mask that covered the hurt of a child who was the recipient of the frustration, jealousy, resentment and rage of an emotionally disturbed parent. Who knew that under the mask was a child who was confused and hurt? Instead, Amy lived in a La La Land of sorts… She thinks that mask must have looked very dreamy because most of her report cards carried the same comment ~ “Amy daydreams in class”.

There is the mask of a school girl who felt worthlessness. She felt certain that everyone was better than she. From the sidelines, Amy watched the other kids, but never removed the mask. Her mask was so plain and ordinary that no one really noticed.

Amy’s teen years were most miserable, again watching by the sidelines – sure that she was unworthy to have friendships with the other kids. The teen mask was too funny and maybe a bit loud.

As a young wife, Amy donned yet another mask to hide what she endured behind closed doors. Amy quickly shifts her thoughts away from those brief three years, after which she was mercifully spared by the eternal distance of death. She never wore that mask again.

Married again with a mask that most resembled the happiness inside, Amy’s barrenness became all too apparent. She donned yet another mask of a young woman who was happy to be childless. It was a lie…

The barrenness gave Amy the opportunity to sink herself deep into a career. Oh the masks she wore throughout that career! It simply goes without saying…

The masks protected… It was never a question of “Who will protect me from the evaluations and judgments?” No. It was a matter of putting on another mask for the world to see as she thought “You don’t know me. You only know my mask…”

Now, in retirement and all alone in the world, Amy has removed all the masks except for one. That mask shows the world that she is happy, content and enjoying life in her “golden years”. It is a fairly transparent mask, allowing some of the “real Amy” to shine through and yet still hides some left over emotions.

Even in the midst of her happiness is the harsh truth that retirement gives her too much time to think. She has time to mull things over and over in her mind to explore all of the “what if’s” of her plastic life. It is an exercise in futility and best avoided. But she still goes there in her memories…

Amy’s masks covered each wound caused by brokenness. Under the remaining scars are buried emotions of fragility, anger, fear, weakness and unworthiness. Feelings of being cheated by life are nearest to the wound; more pronounced than ever due to the extraordinary recall ability of the elderly. Jealousy rears its ugly green head when life reminds her that she had no children, no grandchildren and that the likelihood of dying alone is more of a possibility than not. Who will really care? It is a fear that cannot be overcome by a successful career, money or a mask. No! It is just another reality of a plastic life.

She fears the time that old age frailty will come upon her. She fears that senility might remove her mask… Who will help her keep the mask on?

Amy is determined that no one will remove her mask after her death. She leaves no record of wrongs for a relative or solicitor to find amongst her possessions.

Even in death, she hopes no one will remove her masks.

A work of FICTION By Darlene Cirinna
© November 7, 2011
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tasty Tuesday ~ Black Bean Salad


I love veggies!  I would rather eat veggies than a piece of cake.  Ummmm…  Not to say I don’t like cake…LOL   But I digress….


I keep a full veggie bin in my fridge ALL THE TIME!  So, when I am hungry for something different, I rummage around in my veggie bin, then create something.  My black bean salad is one of those creations.


  • Tomato
  • Tomatillo
  • Green bell pepper
  • Red bell pepper
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Sweet onion
  • Cilantro
  • Black beans in can
  • Salt, pepper and cumin



Wash veggies well!  Chop all to preferred size.  I like mine chopped small, but not fine.  How much of each item you use is up to you and your taste.  Rinse and drain the black beans, then add to your veggies.  Season to taste.  I use salt, pepper and cumin. Stir well and refrigerate.  It is best after the ingredients “marry”.  It’s good the same day, but the next day is better. 


You can eat this any way you want.  It makes a good salsa with tortilla chips.  I prefer in a bowl…like ice cream…LOL.  Sometimes I dress it up a bit.  Here are some ideas:


This one is topped black bean salsa 041with a dollop of hummus, then sour cream, sprinkled with paprika and garnished with cilantro.


black bean salsa 053

I like it in a pita pocket too.  This photo is with the hummus and sour cream.  It is just as good with the veggies only.


Be brave in your kitchen.  Explore, experiment and get wild.  Veggies are not made to eat alone.  Mix ‘em up and enjoy!


Darlene Cirinna