Coping, Cleaning and Cooking During Quarantine

 

Wow, what a difference a week can make. One day I’m writing about a beautiful pigeon in the Key Food parking lot, the next I’m frantically refreshing Katie Honan’s* twitter feed, stockpiling garlic and Sclafani tomatoes and using Lysol with bleach as Amazon packages arriving at my door.

New York state is on “PAUSE”. A very necessary measure by our government, trying to play catch-up to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hope is to alleviate some of the burden on our medical system, first responders and all necessary service workers, so we can stay afloat at the most basic level and prevent our most vulnerable from infection.

Heavy stuff.

It feels surreal, like we’re living in a Black Mirror episode. I’ve been generally coping well, despite a few mini panic moments over my mother. She has advanced COPD. I’m also concerned about my sister. She’s a doctor on Long Island, testing people for Covid-19 in a pop-up camping tent, I kid you not (insert cringe emoji here).

We all have loved ones we are worried about, understandably. And on top of that, there is fear, uncertainty and financial problems. We are stuck in the house alone or with our families. The latter can be a good or bad thing! We can’t relieve stress at the gym or at the yoga studio, or get a massage. We can’t go to churches, synagogues or other places of worship to find peace and healing. We can’t get a haircut, go on a date or meet friends at the bar. We can’t go anywhere. This is our new normal folks.

Over the weekend to get my mind off impending doom, I limited my social media. I organized my house and cooked. It helped tremendously.

Choose an organizational project to keep your mind focused
Choose an organizational project to keep your mind focused

I’ve been meaning to clean out my hall closet for the longest time. It was a big task. How does music equipment, cat food, and art supplies all end up in the same place? Taking everything out was easy but organizing and putting it back took some thought. For those several hours, I didn’t think about “the virus” once.

Cooking has always relaxed me. This is the perfect opportunity with extra time on our hands to experiment and try a recipe that is out of our comfort zones. Research the ingredients and their origins. Put some music on in the background and enjoy the moment and aromas. There’s so much joy to be had in the kitchen!

Cook comfort foods to cope
Cook comfort foods to cope

Do you have a creative coping activity? I would love to hear about it. Email me here.

We got this!

*Katie Honan is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and a Rockaway native. Her reporting on the coronavirus is excellent. She also delivered St. Joseph’s pastries to my porch last week despite her exhaustion from working around the clock to inform us New Yorkers. Shout out!  Follow Katie on Twitter: @katie_honan

The Most Beautiful Pigeon In The Key Food Parking Lot

There’s a beautiful pigeon that lives in the Key Food parking lot on 87th street and the blvd. The lot is littered with garbage and oily pools of water, especially by the can return area. The pigeons don’t seem to mind. The beautiful pigeon’s plumage is a burnt auburn color, except for  under her large wings, where she’s white and gray. (I’m assuming it’s a she because she’s so glamorous.) She appears to be stout and healthy. When I walk over there to run errands, I always take a little time to look for her. She is a beautiful site to see, especially in contrast to the unattractive parking-lot-world she lives in.

pigeon nyc 1

My great uncle Pep used to have a pigeon coup in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on the roof of his apartment. Many Italians did back then. My mother told me he was so proud of his flock and spent a lot of time up there training the birds and drinking beer. The pigeons were the topic of many conversations at their dinner table, I was told. If only I could’ve  been a fly on that wall. 

A month or so ago at The Wave, we saw pigeons “fighting” outside the window.  It looked as though they were pecking aggressively into each other’s mouths. But I thought the behavior was too repetitive to be a feather flying fight so I googled …  and what do you know? They were engaging in a mating ritual! Do you know that pigeons (like most birds) mate for life? So adorbs!

pigeon nyc

More interesting, pigeons have been used for centuries as messengers. It was first noted 3000 years ago. The birds carried messages spreading the news of winners of ancient Olympic games. Pigeons were used again during war times to carry messages for long distances from military units. Most famously was a bird named Cher Ami (French for dear friend). She successfully carried an important message from an encircled allied battalion during World War I, despite having several injuries. Cher Ami was awarded a medal of honor for heroics. Her taxidermied body is in a Smithsonian Institution in New Jersey. 

Before the telephone these spectacular birds were used commercially as a means of communication. It has been recorded that pigeons can fly 1,100 miles and find their way back.

The homing pigeon was bred ultimately from a wild rock dove, specifically for this important task. These birds have magnetoreception, which is a sense that detects the magnetic fields on earth, giving  the fowl the ability to perceive direction, altitude and location! 

When I think of all these little things it makes me sad that these beautiful, intelligent birds get such a bad wrap in NYC. They are survivors and you need to be living in this crazy city! If your interested in other NYC animals just trying to make there way in the big apple check out this fun and informative podcast, 10 Things That Scare Me, hosted by Amy  Pearl here.

For more on animals,  follow Paula on instagram  – @theglorifiedtomato

tagged in animals

Pretzel Flashback

pretzel making

I was flipping through a magazine and came across a recipe for homemade jumbo soft pretzels. It struck a chord.

I remember as a kid going into Manhattan to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree with my family. My sisters and I would beg my dad to stop and get us pretzels from the corner cart. It was December and cold outside. The steam rising from the twirling pretzels inside the glass case was all I could focus on. It reminded me of the animated Christmas displays – the ones in the windows at Macy’s that we’d also visit. My father would cave and buy us the pretzels, despite knowing we’d be covered in mustard for the rest of the day. Holding the warm pretzel in our hands was pure joy!

When I was a teenager, my friends and I would take the LIRR into the city to hang out at bars or just to walk around. We’d grab a pretzel almost every time. It became a ritual of sorts. Also, as teens, we were scraping together our money for the day and those pretzels were perfectly priced, filling and delicious!

And yet again, pretzels pop into my memory thinking about those long days commuting from Long Island when I first started working in the city at Morgan Stanley. My saving grace those nights were getting a mini-bottle of red wine and a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s in Penn Station for the train ride home. Butter, bread, and salt is the cure for any terrible day of work.

When I finally moved out of my parents (against their wishes at 28 yrs old), I moved to Ridgewood, Queens. My home away from home was an old German watering-hole called Gottscheer Hall Before the bar became hip, a few friends of mine would hang out with the old-timers, having beers and sharing Gottscheer’s super-large pretzel. It’s probably 15 inches square! A hot pretzel with cheese sauce and a cold Hofbrau on tap were on the menu for me many Friday nights back then.

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Clearly, I love soft pretzels. I had to try this recipe. This was my first attempt at making homemade pretzels. I’m not much of a baker and to be honest, this was a big project for a beginner. All the work (and cleaning) did pay off.

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The pretzels were salty, buttery and delicious! My friend Rob was over and tried one. He said the texture was more like focaccia than a dense pretzel. Italian pretzels anyone?! I’m sure my baking mathematics played a role in this. My dough was soft and airy, not as dense as a standard pretzel. I had the idea to make it again and add cured black olives! Give the recipe a try. It’s worth the effort!

P.S. I hate hard pretzels.

Soft Butter Pretzels
(Makes 10 medium sized pretzels)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
1 cup bread flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
4 tablespoons butter
4 Coarse salt to taste
Mustard for dipping

Directions

Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in a mixing bowl; stir to dissolve. Add sugar and stir to dissolve; add flour and salt. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rise till doubled in size or at least 1 hour. While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups warm water and 2 tablespoons baking soda. This process is the trick for a shiny, salty exterior and a chewy center)

After dough has risen, punch the air out of it. Divide the dough into 10 pieces, roll into a long rope. (about 1/2 inch or less thick) and shape. Shape the rope like a U and cross the two ends over each other, pull the ends down and attach them at the bottom of the U.

Carefully dip pretzel in soda solution for 20 seconds and place on greased baking sheet. Allow pretzels to rise again till doubled in size. Baking at 400°F for about 10 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter, add salt and enjoy!

Recipe from www.savoryonline.com

homemade pretzels scary pretzel pretzel 2 IMG_8700

tagged in comfort foods, recipe

one lucky plant

Oxalis regnellii,

Oxalis regnellii, better known as the Shamrock Plant is a lovely little one that will bring bright color (and maybe good luck) into your home well past St. Patrick’s Day.

The Shamrock Plant reaches a max height of 8 inches tall. The leaves are clover-shaped and in the spring, fall, and winter, small delicate flowers appear. There are over 570 species with a rainbow range of color, from bright and dark greens to the sought-after burnt oranges and dark purple foliage. Exposure to the sun will cause these color nuances in either the green or purple varieties.

Oxalis grows from rhizomes or bulbs, which is a unique feature for a houseplant*. And it’s easy to care for because of this. For example, if you miss watering for a while the bulbs go dormant. Start watering again and the plant reappears like magic! Another little trick this plant pulls out of its hat … at night the leaves fold up and close, reopening in the morning with the sunlight.

Speaking of sunlight, Oxalis regnellii likes sunny indirect light. A southeast facing window will work best but it’s a hardy plant and can tolerate various lighting conditions. I water my plant once a week in the winter and 2 twice a week in the spring/summer. It likes moist soil. Let it dry in between waterings to prevent root rot.

The Shamrock Plant can easily be propagated by separating the rhizomes and replanting in soil.

All of us remember as kids searching through the grass to find the lucky four-leaf clover.  In 11th grade, at lacrosse practice I scooped up a four-leaf clover as I was going for a ground ball, I swear! I framed it and have it somewhere in my parents’ basement.

So, what is the difference between Oxalis, Clover, four-leaf Clover and shamrocks?  Here’s the breakdown.

A shamrock according to Encyclopedia Britannica, is any of several similar-appearing trifoliate plants (leaves divided into three leaflets). Plants called shamrocks include the family Oxalidaceae, or any of various plants of the pea family, including white clover, suckling clover, and black medic.

Therefore, clovers, the ground clover plant, and the house plant Oxalis are both considered shamrocks. Four-leaf clovers are a genetic mutation of the clover. They are rare to find, but not impossible with the luck of the Irish.

For more on plants and gardening follow Paula for the day to day on instagram – @theglorifiedtomato

*Oxalis regnellii, can also be grown outdoors in our garden zone 7. It must be dug up and brought in before the frost.