Friday Dance Party – Fergie Time

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being able to celebrate this fact.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  First off, Happy Earth Day, Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all of you.  We hope this important week in religion and with our planet finds you and your families safe and sound.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

I have been wondering how to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Kate and William over in England.  Do I send them a blender or a food processor?  You know, a kitchen appliance wrapped up in a big box with a big, blue bow on it is every newly married couple’s dream gift.  Probably not, right?  How about I DVR the wedding and send over a DVD copy of the day to them so they always have it at their fingertips in case they want to watch?  Maybe.   How about Fergie singing ‘London Bridge’ to them in celebration of their wedding and their hometown?  Sounds perfect to me…that’s what I would want.  So here you go Kate and William, a tribute from Fergie.  I hope all of you will shake it to this tune for getting through another week.  I bet that in some back corner of Buckingham Palace, Kate and William are shaking it too.  Are you excited about the upcoming royal wedding? 

Cardinal Love Is A Battlefield

This is how we woke up this morning.  Through closed windows and with light rain falling, we woke up to the sound of super loud bird noises.  First, it was loud beautiful singing.  Next, shrill one-note warbles.  Then back to loud beautiful singing.  Where we live, you never know what you are going to find when you pull back the curtains to take a peek.  Today it was the sight of two male Cardinals fighting for the love of one female.  I thought the fight looked pretty intense so I crept outside to take some pictures.  I’m sure the Cardinals were also quite amazed at the sight of me running around in the rain in a t-shirt, pajama bottoms and no shoes trying to capture some pictures of their Spring love ritual.  This ritual consisted of the female enjoying front row seats and sitting there watching the mayhem.  All morning, one male would fly at the second male.  There would be an in-air or on-branch fight consisting of a flurry of wings and loud warbles.  Then one or the other male would fly off a few hundred feet away and rest and plot the next attack.  First, meet the female.  The object of their affection:

Here is the first male.  Notice how he is a little larger than the other male.  This helped him because, if I was the fight judge, this guy would have won.

Here’s the second male.  Slightly smaller, but he sure is scrappy.

As we left for work this morning, the fight was still raging.  I started to wonder what would happen to the loser.  Does he finish the summer a bachelor or does he go and find another female to marry?  While I think the larger male will win the love of the female, there was also a little piece of me that was rooting for the smaller guy.  I’ve always had a soft spot for an underdog.  While we don’t know the ultimate winner yet, I did find some interesting reading on Cardinal mating on the internet. 

Here is a piece from http://www.birdhouses101.com:

The early spring is the mating season for Cardinals.  These songbirds are known as “socially monogamous” but there are times when they copulate with the others.  There was even one study which found that nine to 35 percent of Cardinal nestlings came from extra-pair copulations.

The mating season begins with pair formation that includes different physical displays of cardinals.  The males show off to attract a female.  They also do the courtship and mate feeding.  Females choose their mates based on the male’s ornamentation such as the size of his black face mask as well as the color of his plumage and bill.  Studies have found that the ornaments of male and female Cardinals provide information on the bird’s condition.  For instance, females with a big face mask shows that they are good defenders of nests but for males, this means that they are not highly successful in reproduction.

Mate feeding occurs when the male Cardinal picks up a seed, hops near the female and the two touch beaks so the female can take the food.  Mate feeding will go on until the female lays eggs and incubates them.  Normally, pairs of Cardinals stay together throughout the year and may breed for several seasons.  This bird lives an average of one year although there have been records of longer life spans.

Did you know that Cardinals sing their best during the love season?  They sing with great emphasis as evident in the swelling of their throat, spreading of their tail, drooping of wings and leaning from side to side as if performing on stage with much gusto.  They repeat these melodies over and over again resting only for a short time to breathe.

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Who knew we would use words like ‘copulate’ and ‘extra-pair copulation’ here on Acorns On Glen?  All in all, the Cardinal love story was and probably will keep being a great show here on Glen Road.  Nature always proves to be a great theatre if you pay attention to it.  I’m glad we have Cardinals in our backyard and that we took the time to notice them.  What other strange Spring mating rituals are going on in your neck of the woods? 

Never Met Bread That I Didn’t Like

This is a quick recipe.  We eat a ton of Italian food here on Glen Road (have you noticed?).  What goes better with Italian food than garlic laced, herbed bread?  Nothing, trust me, nothing.  I have never met bread that I didn’t like.  Give this garlic herbed bread a try one night at dinner.  You and your family will love it. 

Ingredients:

  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1 large baguette

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the garlic, parsley, basil, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until finely minced.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and parsley mixture and cook for 1 minute, until the garlic is tender but not browned.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Slice the baguette lengthwise down the center, but not all the way through, and spoon the garlic mixture into the bread.  Place the bread on a sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes.  Slice diagonally and serve warm.

Super quick and super easy.  The kind of recipe that I like.  If you are in a pinch, I’ve also used dried parsley and basil flakes when I didn’t have fresh herbs on hand.  It won’t yield the same flavor intensity as using fresh herbs, but it does come out very tasty.  Give this bread a try and let us know how you liked it.  What other bread recipes do you have that you can share on Acorns On Glen?

The Brooklyn Italian Grandmother Is Back And Cooking

This is our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother back in the kitchen and digging into a pile of broccoli rabe.  Otherwise known as cooking with your fingers only up to the base of your rings.  We can dig that, can you?  What has happened to the world of broccoli rabe these days?  They steam it….good for you.  Yuch, it is tasteless!  They stir fry it.  O.K., but limp and mushy.  They saute it in water.  That’s called boiling it where we come from.  We asked our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother to come back into the kitchen and make it the good old-fashioned way so that we could share it with everyone.  This is a great side dish and is quick and easy.  When you are making an Italian dish, cook up some broccoli rabe and see what the family says.  While many people say it has a bitter taste, we have found that if you cook it up the Brooklyn way, the rabe is soft and delicious.  I’ve held the Brooklyn Italian Grandmother down and measured and forced her to tell me her recipe.   So let’s take what I’ve forced out of her and cook up some broccoli rabe and go jewelry shopping all in one post.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large heads of broccoli rabe.  I found organic and super fresh.  We beg you to do the same.  Your body doesn’t need the chemicals. 
  • 3 tablespoons great olive oil
  • 7 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.  More or less depending on how much you love garlic.  We adore it so use 7 cloves if you are truly a garlic lover.
  • 1 cup chicken stock, again go organic if you can
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, or more to flavor to your liking
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper or more to your liking
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more/less to taste.  We like it spicy.

Directions:

Trim the stalks of the brocolli rabe and rinse under cool water.  Roughly chop garlic cloves.

  Rings always look better with a garlic scent to them.  Multiple bracelets support the wrist during the chopping process.

Over medium heat, heat the olive oil and then add the chopped garlic and sautee until garlic is lightly golden in color.

Add the chicken broth and the chicken bouillon cube until they are lightly heated.  Then add the cleaned and rinsed broccoli rabe.  Don’t be nervous if the rabe is stacked high in the skillet.  It will quickly wilt down to a reasonable amount.

  What takes away from beautiful green, organic and fresh rabes more than diamonds and solid gold?

Lightly place a skillet lid on top of the broccoli rabe and continue to adjust it while the rabe wilts down.

  Lid protects jewels from damage but also allows steam to lightly clean the gems.  We call this multi-tasking.

As the broccoli rabe wilts down during the cooking process, raise the lid and add a teaspoon of salt to flavor during cooking.  Place the lid back on the rabes and saute for about 10 minutes.  Lift lid and turn over the broccoli rabe so the bottom is now on the top and place the lid back on for another 10 minutes.  Continue cooking until rabes are al dente, meaning tender but they still possess a little chewiness to them.

   Diamonds are forever….sing it.

When tender, add another half a teaspoon of salt and the pepper or more to flavor the broccoli rabe to your liking.  Add the red pepper flakes to add a little heat.  If you like it hot, add more.  If you can’t take the heat, don’t add any red pepper flakes.  Use your own judgement. 

Come on…have you ever seen such a beautiful and exotic side dish to complement your favorite Italian dish?  Broccoli rabe is not for everyone, but it is for most people that we have served it to in the traditional Brooklyn Italian Grandmother way.  Who needs to light up their life when you can rabe up your life?  Just a little hint–some great bread is delicious when you use it to dip in and soak up the broth from the rabes.  And remember, it also is a great way to clean your jewelry in an organic sort of way.  Give it a try….you won’t be sorry.  What side dishes can you share on Acorns On Glen that would be great with Italian food? 

Friday Dance Party-Mariah’s In The House

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for living another week. We give thanks for making it through the journey and for being able to celebrate this fact.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  Are you alive this Friday?  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

Super divas make for super dancing.  We’re full of emotion this week as we travel to Chicago to meet my brother, my sister-in-law and the kids this weekend.  We haven’t seen them for a while, so we are filled with excitement and anticipation for the days to finally get here.  So it is finally Friday and today is the big first day!  We have lots planned…a nice hotel to stay at, lots of new restaurants to eat at, lots of shopping to do and yes, we are even going to a museum for a little culture.  So this weekend promises to be GREAT.  So who better to sing a song that embraces all the emotions we are feeling?  Ms. Carey, Mariah Carey herself.  The girl can blow and this is one of our favorite Mariah songs.  It makes me feel so young again when I listen to it.  So here’s to a great weekend to us here in Chicago and to you and your loved ones wherever you may be.  Shake it to Mariah.  Dance hard (finally, a fast one!) and celebrate family and YOU.  You deserve it and you got me feeling higher.  How old were you when Mariah busted this wild groove?