The Godfather’s Pasta Sauce

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Godfather sauce

I’m gonna make you a pasta sauce you can’t turn down!

I have been addicted to The Godfather’s pasta sauce ever since I first tried it at Pileggi’s Italian Café in Oakwood Square. In the past whenever I would visit Pileggi’s I would always have the eggplant parmesan. One evening a few months ago I noticed an entry on the menu labeled The Godfather. It sounded good so I thought I would try it and it was love at first bite. Served over a large plate of linguini, it was heaven Italian style!

Those of you who have been reading my posts for awhile may remember that I have been learning to cook. From Eating My Mistakes to Ken’s Famous Coney Sauce my culinary education has been an adventure.

After tasting The Godfather at Pileggi’s I thought I would try to recreate it. The first thing I did was to put “godfather sauce” into the Google search engine. Not to my surprise a myriad of hits came up. The recipe that seems to the most favorite one is a recipe that supposedly first appeared in Glamour magazine in 1973. The sauce is based on a scene in the movie The Godfather where Clemenza is making spaghetti sauce for a group of his fellow mobsters. The exact recipe didn’t appear in either the movie or the book so it is most likely and educated guess by the author of the article. I found the recipe that I decided to use and refine on the Food.com website.

One of the fun things about learning to cook is getting to the point where you feel confident enough to make changes to a recipe thereby making it your own. What follows is my version of The Godfather’s pasta sauce. Buon appetito!

I hope you enjoy this sauce as much as I do. If you don’t, I will send Vito and Rocco over to have a talk with you. Enjoy!

The Godfather’s Pasta Sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion chopped
2 – 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 – 6oz cans tomato paste
¼ cup sugar
4 links of DiRusso’s medium hot Italian sausage, cooked and sliced into ¾” pieces
1 lb mini meatballs, cooked ( I use Farm Rich)
A splash of red wine (Chianti works well)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil. (1 teaspoon if using dried basil)
1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian oregano.

Directions
1. Heat the oil over medium heat for 1 minute in a Dutch oven or large pot.

2. Add the onions and cook while stirring constantly. After two minutes add the crushedgarlic and continue cooking being careful not to burn the garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes aromatic and the onions begin to become translucent.

3. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Increase the heat to medium high. Continue cooking while stirring until the ingredients are combined to a smooth consistency.

4. Add the sugar a little at a time to taste.

5. Add the sausage and meatballs. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for one hour stirring occasionally.

6. About 5-10 minutes before serving add the basil and oregano to taste.

7. Add a splash of red wine and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. If you are serving this to children or someone who does not tolerate alcohol either omit the wine or transfer a sufficient amount to another pot before adding the wine. One trick to burn off some of the alcohol is to plate the pasta and sauce and place it under the broiler for a minute or so. Some of the alcohol will still remain but this lessens the bite of the alcohol while leaving the wine taste in the sauce.

8. Serve over the pasta of your choice; mine is linguine.

KEN’S FAMOUS ZUCCHINI BREAD

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Ken's Famous Zucchini Bread

KEN’S FAMOUS ZUCCHINI BREAD

3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2-1/3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 cups grated zucchini (unpeeled and don’t squeeze out moisture or grate the seeds)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
12 oz. Craisins®

Preheat oven to 325°
Grease two loaf pans with shortening and powder with flour, shaking out all excess flour.
Mix the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until the sugar is nicely creamed.
Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until well blended.
Stir in the Craisins®.
Bake for 55 minutes on a rack 2/3 up in the oven and test for doneness. After testing (I use a kabob skewer instead of a toothpick, thereby insuring that I test all the way to the bottom of the pan.)
Optional: After the first test I crank up the oven to 375° because I like a little bit of a crisp crust on the top.
Continue testing until the skewer comes out completely dry and clean.
Enjoy!

An Updated Night Before Christmas

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T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse.

Ma on her iPad, me on my Kindle, both patiently waiting for old Kris Kringle.
The grandkids were posting selfies with their iPods showing Santa that they were indeed being good.

When all of a sudden, there arouse a load noise and I jumped from my recliner not sure what to do. My wi-fi is down cried my grandchild one. Mine is down too cried grandchild two. What is wi-fi? Cried my wife in her moo-moo.

In a hurry I grabbed my laptop’s mouse and to my chagrin there was a red X where my wi-fi bars had been. Just then on my roof I heard the sound of a ladder. I opened the door and stepped outside to see what was the matter. I looked up and saw Ralph, Santa’s chief technical elf. He looked down at me and said with a smile “Don’t worry my friend, I’ll have things fixed in awhile. “It seems as though your router is broken. Overworked and overloaded.”

Then whistling Noel, techno Ralph went to work and in a thrice he got working each and every device. Now said my new friend “Each of you must now help yourself.” “Update IOS, your systems are a mess. Update, Java, Adobe and Google, and then all the rest.”

Before he left Ralph said “Remember that Christmas is not just about bandwidth received. But rather it’s about the breadth of your caring and love that you give.”

So loading his ladder he started to go. And I heard him proclaim as he went into the night. Log on to Apple, log on to Amazon; log on to Ebay and Overstock too. Happy online shopping to all and to all good night.

 

 

 

 

IT IS TIME FOR US TO TAKE A STAND AGAINST VIOLENCE!

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On December 14th, 2012 my grandchildren spent the day at their elementary school and came home safely. But sadly 20 of our children didn’t make it home that day. Horrifically murdered by a lunatic we lost 20 of society’s most precious assets. Make no mistake those children that were lost belonged to me, to you, and to all of humanity. With that loss now comes the time for us as a society to take a stand against violence.1 Ribbon copy

A lot of the discussion in the media is about gun control. While gun control is one very important part of taking a stand against violence it is not the entire solution. To effectively take a stand against violence we must come together and face the underlying culture of violence that pervades our society. From the television shows that our children are exposed to, the movies that they watch, and the video games that they play, and more importantly the everyday behavior of the adults in their lives our children are exposed to violence on an alarming scale. If you can’t hear that alarm then you need to wake up.

What can we do? Where do we start?

We can start with the person in the mirror. As you examine your daily life ask yourself if you are routinely watching those television show that show graphic violence. If you are, maybe it is time to turn those shows off. Once you do, you will not only be taking a step to end violence, you will also be taking a step towards a calmer, more caring self. It is especially important to monitor the shows on your television if you as an adult have the television on and it is tuned to such shows when there are children in the room. Far too often parents use the television as an electronic baby sitter with little care exercised about what is on that television. Children, especially young children are emotional sponges who soak up the emotions around them. Let’s not fill those sponges with undertones of violence. Turn that damn television off and read a book with your children.

We need to be more selective about the movies we take our children to see and the movies we purchase or rent to watch at home. Even Disney movies are filled with violence. Most parents slough off the violence in children’s movies saying it is only cartoon violence. A young child’s psyche isn’t developed enough to understand that the cartoon violence they are watching isn’t real. I recently took my grandchildren to see Disney’s Wreck It Ralph. Many of the scenes in it were so intense that my seven year-old grandson covered his eyes, clenched his arms in front of him because that cartoon violence scared him. Don’t buy into the theory that if it is from Disney that it must be appropriate for young children.

To me video games are a large part why our children are becoming desensitized to violence. Unfortunately many adults not only let small children play violent video games, the play them with them. Some of the video games that are sold in America are so graphic that I don’t think that anyone, young or old should be playing them. Recently I was at a Christmas party were Santa Claus made a visit. Before Santa’s arrival the parents of the children present snuck presents into Santa’s bag for the kids. One by one the kids sat on Santa’s lap and opened the present that they thought was from Santa but was really from the child’s parents. One eight year old boy received a video game entitled Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The game was rated 17+, which means that it not only wasn’t intended for young children but that it was illegal for anyone under the age of 17 to even purchase it. The rating label listed the following items which the game contained: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs. Are these the type of games that we should let an eight year-old child watch? Far too many parents are purchasing those violent video games for their children. And what is worse; they are playing them with their children. When parents spend time playing with their children it has a huge impact on them. What little child isn’t going to think that all that violence, gore, and mayhem is accepted behavior when they are experiencing it by playing a video game with dad!IMGP2163

The point is, we have a culture of violence that is threatens the very fabric of our society. If we as a society don’t decide that a change is needed it will only get worse. How many more children have to die before we say that it must stop?

While gun control is getting the lion’s share of the media attention there are many other facets of violence in our society that need our attention. Besides those already mentioned, we need to address the mental health problems in today’s America. For several generations now funding for mental health care has been slashed. As a result far too many people are on the street that should be institutionalized. Had the shooter at Sandy Creek received the care he needed maybe those children would not have died.

I feel that one very important thing we must do is to combat the disproportionate influence of the National Rifle Association and others such as the radical members of the Tea Party. Their pressures on our elected officials have given them much more power than they deserve. We need to stand up to those who would keep us from being heard in the debate concerning the future of our children. If we must, we should borrow a page out of the NRA’s playbook and let our elected officials know that if they succumb to the pressure of the NRA and the Tea Party that then they will face a greater pressure from those of us who truly care about the future of our country.

The debate concerning violence in America is currently a hot topic. If you truly care about our children please keep that debate going. For the sake of our children don’t let the passage of time silence that debate.

Going to Disney World with Little Children: An Exciting Magic Kingdom Update

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My favorite Disney Princess.

Disney has just completed a large part of their most ambitious renovation and expansion of a Disney park in their history with the opening of several features of the new and much larger Fantasyland. So I decided to update my post of Going to Disney World with Little Children.

No matter how old you are you will never forget your first visit to the Magic Kingdom and even if you have been there multiple times such as I have you will discover something new each time you visit the Magic Kingdom. When you are visiting the Magic Kingdom with little children it is even more magical.

The Magic Kingdom covers a lot of acreage and traversing it all on foot can be a trying ordeal even for an adult. I recommend taking or renting a stroller for younger children up to five years old. In addition to providing transport for your children a stroller comes in handy for carrying extra bottles of water, diapers, your ponchos, and the souvenirs that you will purchase. If you are driving to Disney World taking your strollers with you doesn’t present much of a problem. Renting strollers at Disney World is quite expensive; the current rental rate is $15.00 for a one day rental of a single stroller and $31.00 for a double. You can save a little by getting a multiple day rental. The multiple day rental rate is $13.00 for a single stroller and $27.00 for a double stroller.

Upon entering the Magic Kingdom you are faced with the dilemma of what to do first. There is so much to see and do, especially on your first visit that it can be quite bewildering. One thing I would recommend is to purchase an autograph album for the kids upon entering the park. One of the greatest joys for kids is meeting their favorite Disney character in person, posing for pictures with them and getting their autographs and there are a myriad of places in the Magic Kingdom where kids can meet their favorite Disney characters. As you enter the park you will see the Town Square Theater on your right. Here the kids can have their first meet and greet with Mickey, Minnie and a few of the Disney princesses. If you do choose to make the Town Square Theater your first stop at the Magic Kingdom you will also have your first encounter with the Disney PhotoPass service and Disney’s Fast Pass service. The Disney PhotoPass offers photos taken by Disney’s own photographers. After your trip you can then go online and order prints, photo cd’s and more. Of course any items you order will be quite expensive and I feel they are only worth the money if you don’t take any pictures yourself. Even so I recommend getting the PhotoPass; it is free and comes with one great benefit – as you make your way around Disney World you will find the Disney PhotoPass photographers everywhere; at all the character greeting locations and at the spots where you can get the best shots of scenes such as Cinderella’s castle, even if you don’t plan on purchasing any items you should still get the PhotoPass because without exception the photographers will willingly take a picture of you and the kids at the best locations using your own camera. All you need do is, after they take a picture of your group with their camera simply ask if they would mind taking a picture of your group with your camera. I have never had one refuse to do so and the result is that I get the same great pictures on my camera that Disney wants me to purchase.

One other thing you will encounter first at the Town Square Theater is the Disney Fast Pass service. Wait times at Disney World’s most popular rides and attractions can reach up to two hours at certain times during the day. Some years ago Disney came out with the Disney World Fast Pass. Fast Pass allows you to bypass the longest lines at the most favorite rides or attractions. On attractions that use the Fast Pass service you will see a Fast Pass distribution kiosk close to the entrance of that attraction. Simply insert your admission card and the machine will spit out a Fast Pass telling you when to return and receive express entrance to the attraction. The ticket will have your return time printed on it with a time period such as 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 PM. During that time period simply walk up to the Fast Pass line and be ushered right in, thereby avoiding a long wait. You are only allowed to have one Fast Pass active at a time so you can’t run around the park and get Fast Passes for all of the busiest attractions. The bottom of the ticket will tell you when you are able to get a Fast Pass for another attraction or ride. Be forewarned there are only a limited amount of Fast Passes issued each day. Once that amount has been issued there will be no more given out. We have gotten to the Fast Pass kiosk at some attractions around noon only to find that no more Fast Passes were being issued for that ride for the rest of the day. Before entering the park each day we usually decide upon which ride or attraction that we want to use our first Fast Pass on; we then all give our admission cards to one person who runs ahead and gets Fast Passes for us all. We then meet up later at another attraction or ride where the rest of us have gotten into line and wait to meet up with our runner. A tip for those of you with Verizon smart phones is to download the free Disney’s Mobile Magic app. This app will give you all sorts of information about wait times, Fast Pass distribution and more; it is a definite must have for those of you with Verizon smart phones and can be a great help in using the Fast Pass system.

As you leave the Town Square Theater make your way down Main St. where you will get your first glimpse of Cinderella’s castle, if this is your first time at the Magic Kingdom it is an experience you will never forget. Try to resist the urge to go into all the shops lining Main St. There is plenty of time for shopping later and you will find opportunities to spend your souvenir money everywhere. If you just can’t resist at least looking in one store, make the Emporium your first stop. You can enter at the lower end of Main St., take a casual stroll through the store and exit further up Main St. A tip about shopping in Disney World: each park offers a service where you can have your packages sent to the guest service station at the exit of each park. You then pick them up on your way out of the park and avoid carrying your packages around all day. It gets even better if you are staying at one of the Disney resorts. Disney will magically make sure your packages arrive safe and sound at your resort for you to pick up at your leisure.

As you reach the end of Main St. you will see a Disney PhotoPass photographer in the middle of the street; be sure to stop and have your picture taken with Cinderella’s castle in the background. On your left, at the end of Main St. is the Crystal Palace restaurant where you can have your first experience with Disney’s character dining. The meal is buffet style with multiple visits from Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet; a nice stop if the kids like Winnie the Pooh and company. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time. While we are at the end of Main St. I will mention two of the most popular shows at the Magic Kingdom; the Main Street Electrical Parade and the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade. Both parades are excellent and I highly recommend them for little children, especially if this is their first visit to the Magic Kingdom. However there are a couple of caveats. First, in order for little children to get a good view of each parade you need to stake a claim to a space on Main St. up to two hours ahead of time during the busiest seasons. If you do decide to camp out for a select spot do it near restrooms where one adult can shuttle the kids back and forth while the rest of your party guards your territory and guard it you must. People compete quite fiercely for the best spots. The Dream Come True Parade is in the middle of the afternoon and during summer months can mean making little children sit for up to two hours in full sun in near one hundred degree temperatures. We bypassed this parade during our 2010 trip with our grandchildren. Opting instead to head back to our resort around one or two in the afternoon where we spent the hottest time of the day enjoying the resort pool. If you are at Disney World during periods of such high temperatures I would recommend skipping this parade until a future trip when the kids are a little older. If you and/or the kids have never seen the Main Street Electrical Parade, don’t miss it. It is fantastic! Last year instead of camping for two hours on Main St. like we did in 2008 we spent the time on rides and when it got close to time for the parade we made our way down to Main St. Twenty minutes before the scheduled start of the parade we couldn’t even get onto Main St. so we settled for a spot about twenty people deep around a corner off of Main St. I hoisted my grandson upon my shoulder so he could get a glimpse of the parade and what happened shortly after the parade started will forever be etched in my memory. After a few floats had gone by my grandson leaned over, grabbed my neck and said “Grandpa, this is the best vacation ever.’ I don’t remember what float was going by at that moment but I will never forget my grandson’s remark at that time. That moment in time was worth every penny we spent on this trip.

While you are standing in front of Cinderella’s castle make a note for future reference. There is a baby care and first aid station to the left as you face the castle. It is tucked away just as you pass the Crystal Palace restaurant, on the path towards Adventureland.

Once you have had your fill of gazing at Cinderella’s castle head around the castle to the right and make your way to the new and much improved Fantasyland. The old Fantasyland was nice, but it was small and therefore extremely crowded. When there on our trip with the grandkids in 2010 we noticed that ground had been broken on what is perhaps Disney’s most ambitious revamping and expansion of Fantasyland. Mickey’s Toon Town is gone, as is Pete’s Garage, Goofey’s roller coaster and the little playground where kids could play.

As we go by Cinderella’s castle I will mention Disney’s most expensive of the character dinning experiences – Cinderella’s Royal Table. It is kind of neat having a meal inside of Cinderella’s castle, but a bit pricey. One of the things included in the higher price is that upon entering the castle your little princess will have her picture taken with Cinderella on her throne. The meal is a full service meal while most of the other character dining experiences are buffet style. Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, Snow White, and Jasmine will come to your table and spend a lot of time with your party, sign autographs and pose for all the pictures you want. Even though this dining experience is expensive it is almost always filled to capacity and I recommend making your reservation online long in advance of your trip. My personal recommendation for character dining at the Magic Kingdom is to make this day the day you eat at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary hotel. You can make it a pleasant break in your day at the Magic Kingdom. The Contemporary is only minutes away by the monorail and it is even accessible via a walkway from the magic Kingdom.

Once you arrive at the new and expanded Fantasyland you may have difficulty deciding what to first. Some of the features at the new Fantasyland include Dumbo’s Storybook Circus; a new and much larger Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride; a new train station; a new roller coaster geared for kids and grandpas such as me. Near the train station is the Casey Jr. Splash & Soak Station where kids can have a ball cooling off in refreshing dancing water spouts. The Dumbo ride is one of the most popular of all the rides in Magic Kingdom and in the past there were excruciatingly long wait lines. But now Disney has taken a cue from the restaurant industry and will provide patrons with one of those little electronic devices that will start beeping when it is your turn to board the ride. In the meantime there is now a large entertainment area where little children can be entertained while waiting to board the ride. All of the aforementioned features opened this summer. And are in themselves enough to make me want to schedule our next trip to Disney World. But, even more exciting features are scheduled to open this holiday season!

Scheduled to open this holiday season are several attractions that will make Fantasyland more popular than it has ever been. Scheduled to officially open on December 6, 2012 are: Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid, a ride where you will board a clamshell and take an enchanted journey through Prince Eric’s castle. Also scheduled to open this Dec. 6th is the Be Our Guest Restaurant which is a faithful recreation of the inside of Beast’s castle, where you can dine in one of three dining rooms in Beast’s castle. Based on my past experience with the more popular Disney restaurants, I would recommend that you make reservation for the Be Our Guest Restaurant far in advance o your trip. You can make dinner reservations for Disney dining experiences online or by phone at (407) WDW-DINE. There is also a meet and greet with Belle at Enchanted Tales with Belle. Maurice’s cottage recreates Belle’s father’s workshop. There is also a meet and greet with The Little Mermaid herself in Ariel’s Grotto.

The future has even more in store for the new Fantasyland. 2013 will bring the Princess Fairytale Hall where aspiring princesses can meet actual Disney princesses. 2014 will be the year marked by the opening of Disney’s newest mountain roller coaster – the Seven Dwarfs Mine ride. For up to date information on the new Fantasyland go to http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/magic-kingdom/new-fantasyland/ .

Getting the kids to leave the new Fantasyland may well prove to be impossible, but if you can get them to leave let’s head on over to Frontierland. While on your way to Frontierland you will encounter some of the most favorite rides in Disney World for little Children. The first is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It is immediately on your left as you exit Fantasyland. It is a fun filled, gentle ride geared for little children. On our last trip, my grandson made me take him on the Pooh ride four times in a row while his sister and my wife spent my money in the souvenir shop next door. Around the corner after you leave the Pooh ride is the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. It is nice, but some little children don’t get excited about carrousels. But they will be excited about the next ride you encounter. On your right after you leave the carrousel is probably the most favorite ride in all of Disney World – It’s a Small World. If you have never been to Disney World before be sure not to miss It’s a Small World. But, be forewarned, the theme song of the ride plays over and over during your ride and you will have it stuck in your head for days. After leaving It’s a Small World you will notice Peter Pan’s Flight. It is an o.k. ride but definitely not for little children. Save the Peter Pan ride for a future trip when the kids are older and let’s head on to Frontierland.

Frontierland will have the least appeal to little children. The only attraction in Frontierland that will be of interest to little children is the Country Bear Jamboree (one of my favorites). Frontierland does have two attractions which are extremely popular with older children; they are Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain which are coasters that are extremely popular, but very small children will not be allowed to ride them because there is a 40” height requirement that is strictly enforced. Tom Sawyer Island is o.k. but it is another attraction that can be skipped until some other time. After a short stop in Frontierland head to Adventureland which has much more to interest little children.

In Adventureland you will find the Tiki Room with its infectious music, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the Jungle Cruise, and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet ride as well as the Swiss Family Treehouse. Don’t miss the Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise: little children will love both. The Jungle Cruise can have wait lines up to one hour or more during the busiest times at the Magic Kingdom so you might want to consider using your first Fast Pass of the day at the Jungle Cruise. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is nice but can be scary to little children, including my grandchildren who will not go on it after their first time, so use your discretion on this one. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride looks as though little children might be afraid of it but it is pretty benign and my grandchildren loved it. The Swiss Family Treehouse is nice but can be skipped if you want to budget your time in order to be sure to see the best attractions during this visit.

After leaving Adventureland you will enter Liberty Square where you will find the Hall of Presidents, the Liberty Square Riverboat and the Haunted Mansion. The Hall of Presidents will be of no interest to little children and the riverboat is another attraction that can be put off until later or another trip. The Haunted Mansion is another of my favorite rides but my grandchildren refused to go in it on both trips. If you do decide to go on the Haunted Mansion ride be aware that after you enter the mansion you will be taken to a boarding area for the ride that can be tricky with little children. You have to board a constantly moving car for the ride. You walk along the car and have to hop on board while the car is still moving. Some years ago during a trip to Disney World that my wife and I took by ourselves we were behind a woman with three children in tow. She tried valiantly to board the car with all three children but was unable to get all three of them in and left a little girl who was maybe three years old standing alone on the platform. We scooped her up and took her with us in the car directly behind her mother and siblings. We yelled to the mother that we had the little girl and would return her at the end of the ride. This proved to be a pleasant experience for both us and the little girl because the little girl had a great time and kept us entertained during the whole ride.

After visiting Liberty Square head over to Tomorrowland which is home to Space Mountain and other rides more suitable for older kids and adults. One attraction in Tomorrowland that the kids love is the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. The Monster Inc. Laugh Floor is an interactive comedy club geared towards children of all ages. You and the kids will get a kick out of this show. This is a another Fast Pass show that you might want to put on your Fast Pass list. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is a Fast Pass ride in Tomorrowland that is popular but may not be suitable for the littlest children.

I’ll end our visit to the Magic Kingdom with a note about the fireworks show. There is a nightly fireworks show that is great. It is visible from most areas of the park and you don’t have to camp out like you do for the parades. The times of the show vary with the time of the year that you are visiting Disney World. You can check for the show times as you enter the park. Once nice thing about the fireworks show is that it can be seen from anywhere throughout the park and you don’t have to worry about staking a claim to a seat like you do for the Electrical parade. The Magic Kingdom is the most popular of Disney’s theme parks and I am sure it will be the favorite of you and any little children that you take to Disney World. You may even find that you want to spend more than one day of your trip at the Magic Kingdom. After going there for more than Thirty years I am still enthralled with all the Magic Kingdom has to offer.

Next stop – EPCOT.

Part 1

Epcot

Hollywood Studios

Animal Kingdom

Final Tips

Worth Waiting For!

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Ripe for picking

With my heart beating rapidly in anticipation, hands trembling, I slowly reach towards the perfectly symmetrical orb. Flushed with color its taut skin looking like it can hardly contain the delights it promises me. Should I or shouldn’t I? I hesitate. Do I make my move now or wait. Is this the right time or would it be better to wait? The anticipation is too much. My desire can be held back no more. I am weak. Slowly I reach out and touch the flesh. Wrapping my hand around it I caress in tenderly lest I leave a bruise. Then with a firm yet delicate turn of my hand I pick the season’s first tomato!

To the average person the first home-grown tomato of the year is no big deal. But, to those of us who appreciate the finer things in life; it just doesn’t just get any better than this. You can have the Super Bowl, the World Series, fireworks at the Fourth of July; all pale in comparison to home grown tomatoes.

The difference between home-grown and store bought hot-house tomatoes is astronomical. I cannot bring myself to purchase a tomato from the store between the last home-grown tomato in late October to the arrival of the first ripe home-grown tomato in late July. I keep a constant vigil once I plant my tomatoes in late May. Each day I check for blossoms, snip suckers that I don’t feel will bring forth the desired for fruit. I lovingly water and weed each plant with a reverence that is almost a religious experience.

Better Boy and friends.

Never mind the healthful benefits of tomatoes. The antioxidants and lycopene. Tomatoes are a sensual experience. Full of delight and gratification.

Once my tomatoes start to ripen my wife and I feast on them almost daily. I plant two types of cherry tomatoes, one small and one large variety; both are deliciously sweet and my wife eats them like candy during the day. If there are any left they go into salads at lunch and dinner.

I only plant one variety of large tomatoes – the Better Boy tomato. The Better Boy is a large tomato, only slightly smaller than the popular beefsteak tomatoes but packed with much more flavor and a firm flesh that makes it a good choice for cooking. I use the Better Boys in a myriad of ways: sliced on burgers, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, sliced and drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. Or delight of delights grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the Better Boys is to slice them evenly, place the slices one by one in a ramekin, and as I place each slice in the ramekin I pour on Italian dressing and place the next slice on top of the other until I have effectively rebuilt the tomato.  I then cover the ramekin and put it in the fridge for up to one hour. Pure gastronomical heaven!

Those of you who have read my past blogs know of my adventures in cooking. From Eating My Mistakes to the highly acclaimed Ken’s Famous Coney Sauce my learning to cook has been filled with many failed recipes that never see the light of day. But every once in awhile I meet with some successes. True those successes are few and far between but they provide a nice sense of accomplishment when they do happen.

Even more gratifying is when I decide to experiment and add my personal touch to a recipe. One such recipe is my recipe for stuffed tomatoes. We had them for dinner tonight and they were great! With that in mind I thought I would share my recipe with all the tomato lovers in The Patch (you know who you are). Enjoy!

Ken’s Famous Stuffed Tomatoes

4 large tomatoes (Better Boys preferred)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced finely

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup rice

1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes

1 14.5 can chicken broth

2 tablespoons very finely diced jalapeño peppers

6 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)

4 teaspoons pecorino romano cheese

Cut the top off each tomato and make a small cut on the bottom of each tomato being careful not to cut through, just enough to help the tomato stand by itself. Scoop out the insides of the tomatoes being careful not to puncture the flesh. Liberally sprinkle the inside of each tomato with salt and turn upside down on paper towels to drain. Preheat oven to 350°. In a 12” skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion; stirring constantly cook until the onions start to soften and you can smell the garlic cooking. Add the rice and again stirring constantly cook until the rice just begins to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, chicken broth, and jalapeño peppers and bring to a boil. Continue cooking at a slow boil until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and cooked off. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Once the mixture has cooled a little add 4 ounces of the mozzarella cheese and mix thoroughly. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture and place on a baking sheet. Place on the middle rack of the oven and cook for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes top the tomatoes with the remaining mozzarella and sprinkle with the pecorino romano cheese. Place back in the oven and cook until the cheese is fully melted and nice and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth on the melted cheese. Dig in and enjoy!

Don’t Call Me Sweetie!

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The first instance I can remember about being classified as old came one day when I stopped at Wendy’s for lunch. I was in my early fifties at the time. An young man who was most probably still in high school took my order and when the total was displayed on the register I told him that he must have forgotten something because the total was a bit less than it should be. He said that it was correct but it was lower because he gave me the senior citizen discount. I felt offended! How dare he think that I was a senior citizen. I was tempted to show him how a senior citizen could jump over the counter and give him a black eye. However, I thought better of it and didn’t say anything. Hey, ten percent is ten percent. That money could go into my retirement account.

As time went on I encountered more of society’s preconceived notions towards aging. The most egregious were in the work force. Once I turned fifty it seemed as though every employer thought that I was now brain dead and I had to fight for every real job that I got. It seems as though people today feel that anyone over a certain age is only fit for jobs such as door greeter or cart boy.

But today I experienced the most demeaning age based perception of all. Today I went for my annual physical. I absolutely love the current doctor I have. He is extremely capable and treats me like a real person, not a dollar sign. But one of his nurses is another matter. A few minutes after signing in, the door to the doctor’s inner sanctums opened and a nurse called “Kenneth”. I rose and walked towards the door. As I reached the door the nurse said “this way sweetie.” This way sweetie? Did I look that old to her? Couldn’t she see the vibrant fully alive young man in front of her?

We walked to the scales and she said “stand up there sweetie.” As I mounted the scales my shoulders slumped and I could feel the weight of almost sixty-eight years bearing down on my. “Now let’s measure your height sweetie.” My shoulders slumped more. I measured a full four inches shorter than I did last year! I know that people shrink a little as they age but four inches is not normal. The repeated “sweetie’s” were taking their toll. “Let’s get your weight sweetie.” The years bore down more heavily. I couldn’t bear to look at the reading on the scales. Surely it must have been ten pounds more than it should be.

We walked into the examination room and she said “jump up on the table sweetie.” I’ll show her! I literally jumped up on the table. However, I overdid it and flew completely over the table and landed on the floor. “Sweetie! Are you O.K.?” As she helped me up I could feel my back rounding at the shoulders and I could feel the old man’s hump developing as she helped me onto the table. “Let’s take your blood pressure sweetie.” 200 over 150! “Did something get you upset today sweetie?” Little did she know!

Just then the doctor came in. He looked at me as said “Ken! You look like hell. What’s wrong?” “Just feeling my age doc.” I replied. The physical went well and my spirits slowly perked up. The doctor said I was in good shape and that I had the body of a man in his forties. He told me to get dressed and the nurse would be in to escort me out. After I dressed, the nurse came in and said “Well sweetie looks like you will make it another year.” I looked in the corner for my walker and not seeing one made my own way out.

I realize the nurse thought she was being pleasant to the nice old man. But I have a real problem with people who want to classify me as old. I keep active, both physically and mentally. I enjoy learning new things and love the company of little children. I still want to work; that is if society will let me. I could always work others to death and I still can; it just takes me a little longer.

Society as a whole says that I should sit at home and “go gentle into that good night…” Dylan Thomas in his epic poem written for his dying father said,

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light…

Not only am I going to rage. I am going to kick and scream. I am going down fighting. The darkness will have to sneak up on me and catch me unawares. I intend to live this life the best I can. No rocking chair for me!

My favorite philosopher Satchel Paige said “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” He was also fond of saying “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are.” Good words to live by.

As for me I intended to forge ahead despite society’s attempts to stereotype me. I don’t see myself as old. If you see me as old then that is your problem. If you won’t hire me because I have reached an age at which  you think I can’t contribute any thing more to society, then you are wrong. I still have a lot to contribute.

You can categorize me as old if you want. You can discriminate against me because of my age. You can try your best to make an old man out of me. Bring it on!

Do what you will. I can take it.

But Don’t, don’t ever call me sweetie!

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