Using Booze To Make Holidays Even Brighter

This little drink can really make roasting chestnuts on an open fire or going over the river and through the woods a lot less painful.  It is a juice and vodka drink that we call a Pomatini.  It is made with fresh squeezed pomegranate, grapefruit and lime juices.  We made the drink on Thanksgiving morning and actually sat our Pomatini filled decorative pitchers outside so that the drink could cool down before serving.  During our appetizers before the big Thanksgiving meal, we poured, shaked and drank Pomatinis.  Wow, it sure worked to make good food taste even better.  We decided to make these drinks because pomegranates seemed so Thanksgiving-like.  If you think of it, you could really justify this drink for any holiday or occasion–the reddish color fits in well with Christmas festivities or the juice make-up is perfect for a July 4th party.  So the next time you have a get together, consider the Pomatini!

Ingredients for the Pomatini (fills half of a large decorative pitcher):

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed pomegranate juice
  • 1 1/2 cups vodka
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup

Directions:

Combine pomegranate juice, vodka, grapefruit juice, lime juice and simple syrup and then pour into decorative pitchers.  Continue recipe, making it in the proportions provided, until all of your pitchers are filled.

Add ice to chill into the pitcher or pour drink into a shaker filled with ice.  Strain drink into a chilled martini glass.

Ingredients for Simple Syrup:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat.  Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves.  Let cool.

So why not use our Pomatini to help reduce your stress level during your next holiday get together or party?  Be warned, if you drink more than a couple of these Pomatinis make sure you use a designated driver when you go outside to drive your sleigh around.  What great cocktail recipes do you make during the holidays?  

An Unexpected Thing Of Beauty During A Battle

This is a story of finding something of beauty when you least expect it.  The last couple of months have been extremely busy and stressful here at Acorns On Glen.  So busy, that we’ve not had much time to post here on the blog.  Between work, the Thanksgiving holiday and my father’s ongoing battle with cancer, there has been little down time here on Glen Road.

First off, I am the head of a large group of Accountants.  I’m sure you have heard the term “year-end” muttered a time or two at the places where you work.  Well, that is the time where the rubber definitely hits the road in the accounting world.  To successfully complete year-end requires a lot of organization and some extra time spent in the office.  There is nothing worse than taking an expense in 2012 that could have been taken in 2011 because you weren’t prepared.

Then the holidays pop up.  This year we thought we were being smart and had our favorite restaurant cook most of the food for the 17 guests that were showing up on Thanksgiving day.  We would only make a few side dishes that were family traditions.  Although we saved a lot of time in the kitchen with the food, we still worked the better part of two days cooking the family favorites, setting the table and making sure that the house was neat and tidy.

Lastly, we have spent a lot of time as a family in a new round with my father’s ongoing battle with prostate cancer.  My father had his prostate removed several years ago and, unfortunately, the surgeons were unable to remove all of the cancer cells.  After seeing his PSA levels continue to increase even without a prostate, we have had him come to us for over five years and seek medical care at Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.  While it is common for men to have a small level of Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) in their blood stream, the higher a man’s PSA level, the more likely it is that cancer is present.  Unfortunately, my father’s PSA level has become very high and he has formed a small tumor on his skull that has required radiation.  So far, we have all successfully juggled the doctors’ appointments and radiation sessions and hope to begin to see some progress against this latest flare up in the very near future.

For those of you who have or has had parents who are ill, watching them deal with their issues on a frequent basis makes you heavily reflect on your own life.  First, you feel the need to be checked for the issue that your parent is dealing with on a daily basis.  For any man, frequent PSA screening is essential–do not wait to discuss the need for you with your doctor.  Second, there is a lot of anger that you bottle up.  I constantly think about why this is happening, is there someone to blame and is my family doing enough to make this cancer disappear.  You choose to not show your anger.  It is better to bottle it up then explode and make a bad situation even worse by upsetting everyone.  Lastly, you begin to think about your own life because you realize that life doesn’t last forever.  Are you happy?  Have you made the right choices in your life?  If you could start again, would you do it the same or do it very differently?

Needless to say, all of these things that are going on have dampened the mood here at Glen Road.  You begin to think a lot about what is wrong in your life.  Then you turn a corner while driving and see something that reminds you that life can be very good to you as well.  When things are not so great in your life, remember that the bad things can quickly be out numbered by the things that are going well in your life.  This unexpected Christmas tree in a remote part of Danbury, CT made me remember that although life is not perfect right now, my family, friends and I do have a lot to be thankful for and that we have great lives even in bad times.  As for my father’s cancer, I’m thinking that this Christmas tree in the sky is God’s way of giving us proof that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

So here’s to the unexpected Christmas tree that came to us in a time where we needed to be reminded of how precious and great our lives are.  Anyone can have faith during fair weather; but the true test of faith is how we respond during stormy weather when we can’t see our hand in front of our face.  How do you keep the faith when you are experiencing hard times?

Friday Dance Party – Sharing Taio Cruz’s Hangover (Literally)

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 alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

So what do you do at night when you don’t have electricity for 8 days?  You drink.  I mean, what else can you do?  There is no food in the refrigerator anymore because it had to be tossed out.  You’ve already devoured most of your dry goods like crackers and cookies.  You can’t buy new groceries as you don’t really have a way to put them away in the pitch black darkness.  So, you raid the liquor cabinet and drink your sorrows away.  It doesn’t matter what you really grab as the alcohol, any alcohol, serves multiple purposes (not one being great taste).  The booze:

  • Takes your mind off of your electricity woes,
  • Makes you forget that you’ve only taken a whore’s bath for the last eight days because you can’t take a complete shower (you know what a whore’s bath is….a little water on the important parts of your body and then out the door),
  • Makes you forget that the only way you can access the internet is at the shelter set up in the recreation center for old people senior citizens (I don’t need to hear, “Can I log on with you Sonny’),
  • Enables you to laugh at the fact that you’ve had the same pants on for the last four days because you can’t do laundry,
  • Enables you to sleep (in a passed-out fashion) in a 49 degree house.

If we had music, the dark house would also enable you to dance like crazy to this week’s song.  Given the importance of alcohol this last week, it was only fitting to play Taio Cruz’s ‘Hangover’.  You’ve made it through another week and you deserve to celebrate.  Grab a glass of wine and turn your speakers up and dance.  Hopefully, it’s in a house with electricity…yikes!  What other home remedies can you think of that cure the “no electricity” blues?

Friday Dance Party – Pretending This Is Not Selena Gomez

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 alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

Should I not like a song because of who the artist is?  This question struck me the other day as I was driving to work and humming along to this week’s dance tune.  It is Selena Gomez’s ‘Love You Like A Love Song Baby’.  I had heard the tune a few times before and liked it a lot.  Fun beat, fun lyrics.  This time I needed to know who sang it.  So I hit the information button on my satellite radio panel in my car and saw it was Selena Gomez.  Selena Gomez!!  I don’t know Selena and have nothing against her, but can a man of my age like a song by someone who:

  • Is most likely a teenager,
  • Has most likely never been in love,
  • Makes more money than I do,
  • Dates Justin Bieber.

Then I thought about all the singers who, in their day, were not supposed to be liked due to numbers of reasons.  Elvis, The Beatles, KISS, Enimen….the list goes on and on and, let me assure you, I am not putting Selena in a category even close to Elvis or The Beatles.  I’m just giving examples.  I guess, bottom line, you can’t really help what you like so I’m going to keep on humming, singing and dancing to this song.  Why don’t you do the same?  You’ve made it through another week of living.  If you survived the surprise snowstorm on October 29, you have even more to be thankful for this week.  Go ahead and dance.  You deserve to celebrate.  Just don’t tell anyone it’s Selena Gomez singing!  Do you have any songs you like by singers who you are embarrassed to mention?

Day 5 Without Electricity – Mother Nature Gets The Last Laugh

This is the reason we have no electricity.  About a hundred feet from our house, this tree balances on the power lines that should be supplying the homes in our neighborhood with electricity.  It has been balancing like this for five days since the big snowstorm on October 29.  No heat, no TV, no refrigerator or freezer, no internet, no Acorns On Glen….just quiet and cold and then complete darkness when night falls.  I have gone on the internet at work and see that the power company expects restoration for our home by 11 PM on Sunday, November 6th.  What!!

Our yard has also fared poorly with the snowstorm.  There are several large branches that have fallen.  The heavy snow and the leaves still on the trees were just too much for many of the town’s trees to bear.  You see ripped-off branches of all sizes at our house and throughout the town.  Smaller-sized garden plants, trees and bushes have really taken a beating.  We have a Japanese maple where the top just snapped off.  Most bushes seem to have their center limbs all broken off and laying on the ground.  Many plants just seem to have been beaten into the ground.  It may be too soon to assess the damage.  Some may come back with some growth and some will never come back.  It’s sure been a wild week.  Have you ever lost power and enjoyed a bath using water heated up in a pan on the grill?

Friday Dance Party – Kelly Clarkson Has A Mr. Know It All

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 alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

It is a beautiful Fall day here in Connecticut.  We’ve finally finished getting the yard ready for Winter.  The patio furniture is all covered up in preparation for harsher weather.  The garden pots are all stored until next Spring.  We’ve trimmed all of the spent plants down and we are waiting for the rest to die off so that they too can be trimmed before the first snow.  The garden is bare.  There are no more tomato plants, green bean bushes or radish tops sprouting out of the dirt.  We just can’t seem to believe that Summer is over.  Isn’t there an old saying that says the older you get, the faster time goes?  I believe it, especially this year.  Mother Nature gives us four seasons and makes us abide by each one.  You can’t make one season last longer or be shorter to suit your needs.  She sets the schedule on her own agenda to ensure the cycle of life works.  She is so smart, that Mother Nature.  Sort of a know it all.  That’s what made me think of this week’s song…Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Mr. Know It All’.  It is dedicated to Mother Nature, who knows exactly how to control the seasons whether you like it or not.  You’ve made it through another week, so go ahead and dance.  You deserve to celebrate.  Turn up your computer speakers and let it rip.  Have fun.  Have you finished all your winter preparation outside?

First Pie Of Fall – Making A Concord Grape Pie

This is a slice of our first homemade pie of Fall, a Concord grape pie.  Like many people, hearing about a grape pie is a new thing.  An oddity in the homemade pie world.  I mean, how many times have you ever seen a grape pie in your life?  I have never seen one for sale at the supermarket or at a bakery.  However, when I was a young child growing up in Iowa, my grandmother made grape pies all the time when grapes were in season.  So when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to give it a try.  Remembering the taste of her grape pie made me want to make this.  Although not a common pie, grape filling is a really good way to fill a pie crust.  I do have to disclose that my grandma’s grape pie was different from my grape pie in one major respect.  Hers always had a lot of seeds in the filling.  I remember eating her grape pie and chewing on a seed and whining, “Grandma, there is a seed in the pie.”  She would reply, “Just shut up and eat it.  Do you think I have all day to sit and seed grapes?”  It is true that the grapes you use for this recipe, Concord grapes, contain a lot of flavor and a lot of seeds.  You can spend a lot of time scraping the seeds out of the pulp with a knife, but I have discovered a way to do it in a much faster manner.  I boil the pulp for less than 10 minutes and then strain the seeds out through a sieve.  To start this recipe, you need to find some Concord grapes.

Concord grapes are large, sweet grapes that appear dark purple (almost black) in color.  They have thick skins and are in season in my neck of the woods for a very short amount of time.  Most of the time, you see them in Connecticut at the beginning of October through the middle of November.  Originating in the 1840s near, not surprising, Concord, Massachusetts, the most familiar American grape is the Concord grape.  Winter hardy, the vigorous plants can produce up to twenty pounds or more of the fruit per vine per year.  Well-established grapevines can produce quality fruit for more than forty years.  The Concord grape is responsible for making the famous and popular Concord grape jelly that we all know and loved as kids (and probably as grown ups too).  Here’s how we made our first pie of the Fall…our Concord grape pie.

Ingredients:

Directions:

On a lightly floured work surface, roll 1 piece of pie crust dough into a 13-inch round.  With a dry pastry brush, sweep off the excess flour.  Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate, pressing it into the edges.  Trim to a 1-inch overhang all around.  Crimp edge as desired.  Chill pie shell until firm, for at least 1 hour.  Repeat process for rolling out dough.  Using a 4-inch grape leaf cookie cutter, cut out 4 leaves from dough. Transfer to a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

So now here’s the trick for removing the seeds from the grapes in a pretty quick manner.  Remove the skins from the grape pulp by pinching the ends of each grape, reserving both the pulp and skins separately.  Discard any accumulated liquid (you don’t want your pie to be too juicy).  Literally, just pop the pulp right out of the skins with a squeeze of your fingers.  Here’s the skins:

Now, here’s the pulp:

Place pulp in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Cook until the seeds separate from the pulp and the pulp breaks down, less than 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a sieve into the bowl with the reserved skins.

Here are the seeds left over after your straining is complete.  Discard them.

Let cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove grape mixture from refrigerator.  Stir in sugar and cornstarch.  Pour into the prepared pie shell.  Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water.  Brush edge of pie shell with egg mixture, reserving any remaining egg mixture.  Transfer pie to oven; bake 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until filling jiggles when shaken, about 30 minutes.  Transfer pie to a wire cooling rack; let cool overnight.  Two things to remember on this step:

  • Do not overfill your pie crust with the grape filling.  It does expand and you don’t want it to overflow.
  • When you give your pie a little shake and see the filling jiggle, your first instinct is to think your pie is not cooked enough.  It is.  Remember all the cornstarch you put into the filling?  As the pie cools, the cornstarch thickens the juice and sets it firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove reserved grape leaves from refrigerator and brush with remaining egg and water mixture.  Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack; let cool.  Before serving, place grape leaves on top of filling.

This pie has a great flavor.  Great flavor that also surprises the folks that you serve it to.  Maybe your friends have had a grape pie?  My friends seem to be shocked that I used Concord grapes to make a pie.  After one taste, they all want the recipe.  Since time is running out on Concord grape season, get to your supermarket and pick up some Concord grapes and make this tasty and different dessert.  You’ll be glad that you did.  Have you ever eaten a grape pie before?